A Passion for the Lost

October 16, 2011 in Bible - NT - 2 Peter, Evangelism, Meditations

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

During my time at presbytery I had the opportunity to hear reports from the various churches in our region – hearing of God’s faithfulness, of challenging trials, and of remarkable deliverances. I promised that I would share some of these things with you and so permit me this morning to share one of the stories I heard – a story that both encouraged and challenged me.

We learn from our passage today that the reason God delays the coming of the Day of the Lord is to secure the salvation of all His people. He is not slack concerning His promise but is patient toward us, not will that any should perish. The Lord is determined to rescue his people. Through the preaching of the Word, the witness of believers to Christ, and the work of the Spirit, He is in the process of bringing men, women, and children into His kingdom – and He will not fail to save any of His people.

This was brought home to me through one of the stories shared at presbytery. A member of this congregation, a brother by the name of Dale, has worked for about 20 years as a postal carrier. He has endeavored to do his job faithfully and well, self-consciously endeavoring to bear witness to Jesus through his labor. For many of those years, Dale first worked alongside and later worked under his current supervisor. They have not always seen eye to eye.

About a month ago Dale’s supervisor had a dream. He was at work and it was a rotten day. Everything seemed to be going wrong. The employees were complaining, he was frustrated, the air was tense – except for Dale. Dale was sorting his mail, singing and whistling, doing his work with joy. The mail carriers went out to deliver and the day continued going poorly. Some mail didn’t get delivered; as carriers returned they were asked to carry this new mail out. And you can imagine the response: anger, frustration, railing on the supervisor – from everyone except Dale. He went and did his work with a smile.

Then, in his dream, the supervisor finally got to go home bringing to an end a long, miserable day at work. But wouldn’t you know it, his troubles weren’t over. When he got home soon he and his wife were arguing and fighting – over what, the dream didn’t make clear. But in the midst of their arguing, they heard a knock on the door. Dale’s supervisor went to the door, opened it, and was surprised to see Dale on his doorstep. “Can I help you?” he asked. And the dream ended.

The next day Dale’s supervisor related his dream to the office before Dale arrived and, when Dale arrived, called him into his office. “We need to talk,” he said. And so began a number of conversations between Dale and his supervisor over the Gospel – the next Sunday Dale’s supervisor showed up at church with his wife – though neither of them had darkened the doorway of a church since their childhood; within the next week Dale’s supervisor professed faith in Christ; and in the last several weeks he has continued to grow in the Lord.

As I said I found myself both encouraged and challenged by the story: encouraged because the story reveals that we serve the Living God, a God who moves and acts in the lives of men and women and children to draw them to Himself and give them life. He is not willing that any of His people perish.

But I also found myself challenged: is my life, my conversation, my demeanor – so let me ask you: is your life, your conversation, your demeanor – something that God can put to use in a dream to draw others to Him? Or have you been a poor witness, more the stuff of nightmares? God’s design is to reveal Himself to all the nations of the earth, to cause every knee to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus. And the way he intends to do this is through our witness – so how are we doing? Are we bearing faithful witness to our Lord Jesus?

Reminded of this call and no doubt convicted that we have fallen short of our calling, let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord.

The Sheerest Quixotism

March 1, 2010 in Evangelism, Postmillennialism

“Apart from the power and pormise of God, the preaching of such a religion as Christianity, to such a population as that of paganism, is the sheerest Quixotism. It crosses all the inclinations, and condemns all the pleasures of guilty man. The preaching of the Gospel finds its justification, its wisdom, and its triumph, only in the attitude and relation which the infinite and almighty God sustains to it. It is His religion, and therefore it must ultimately become a universal religion.”

W. G. T. Shedd in David Chilton, Days of Vengeance, p. 497.

Numbering Our Days

September 7, 2009 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Evangelism, Meditations

Psalm 90:12 (NKJV)
12 So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

John Piper tells the story of an old man converted to Christ through the preaching of Piper’s father. Praying for God’s mercy through his tears, the man cried out, “I’ve wasted it. I’ve wasted it.” So little time he had on earth and he hadn’t devoted it to that which truly mattered.

This past week a friend of mine died. He was 48. A week ago Friday we played tennis together; talked about his children; spoke about the weather; sweated on the court; reflected on John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life. By last Sunday morning he had died and gone on to his reward. This side of the grave we won’t meet again.

Blaise Pascal, the great 17th century mathematician, physicist, and Christian apologist, wrote in his Pensees:

Imagine a number of prisoners on death row, some of whom are killed each day in the sight of the others. The remaining ones see their condition is that of their fellows, and looking at each other with grief and despair, await their turn. This is a picture of the human condition…The last scene of the play is bloody, however fine the rest of it. They throw earth over your head, and it is finished forever.

It was this awareness of the transitory nature of life that moved Moses to cry out to God in our psalm today, “So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.” When we are confronted with death it is our opportunity to remember that our days are numbered. We will not live forever. God has set our appointed time on earth and when the number of those days comes to a close then our time here will end as well. Because God has numbered our days, Moses asks the Lord to teach us to number them as well. Teach us to count the number of days we have here on earth, to consider that the time we have before death is short.

What is the purpose of this numbering? So that we might have a morbid fascination with death? Dress in black and be morose? Be like the ancient Egyptians, who had a wooden corpse in their homes that they might bring it out in the midst of their parties and show their guests, declaring, “Look on this while you drink, for this will be your lot when you are dead”? Is this why we should learn to number our days?

No. The purpose is so that we may gain a heart of wisdom. What does a heart of wisdom look like? First, it reckons with the vanity of life and the inevitability of death. Pascal notes:

Nothing is of more importance to man than his state, nothing more fearful than eternity. It is unnatural that there should be people who are indifferent to the loss of their life and careless of the peril of an eternity of unhappiness. They react very differently to everything else. They are afraid of the least things that they anticipate and feel. The same person who spends nights and days in a rage, in the agony of despair over the loss of some status or imaginary affront to his reputation, is the same person who knows he will lose everything by death and shows neither concern nor emotion at the prospect. It is extraordinary to see in the same heart and at the same time this concern for the most trivial matters, and yet lack of concern for the greatest.

But the heart of wisdom does not betray this folly. It knows the imperative of reckoning with death, of being ready to face eternity. And so, the heart of wisdom trusts in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the only means to reconcile a sinner to a holy God. Nothing in my hand I bring, says the old hymn, simply to Thy cross I cling.

Second, the heart of wisdom lives fully and completely for the glory and grandeur of God. What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. A heart of wisdom knows that we were created to find our great joy and gladness in union and communion with God. And so the man who has learned to number his days has learned to spend every one of them in passionate enjoyment of the Living God.

Unfortunately we often waste our days rather than number them. We move from one day to the next with little thought or reflection, distracted by trinkets rather than devoted to the glory of God. Reminded that we are to number our days, that we are to present to the Lord a heart of wisdom, let us kneel and confess our sins in the Name of Christ.

Questioning Evangelism

November 11, 2008 in Book Reviews, Evangelism

Questioning Evangelism by Randy Newman was a profitable and engaging read. The title itself is stimulating and sufficiently ambiguous – forcing the onlooker to begin asking questions – what does he mean “Questioning” evangelism? The first section of the book, in particular, was stimulating. His discussion of the value of asking questions in the task of evangelism was eye opening and encouraging – both as a means of defusing anger and infusing knowledge. He has a number of concrete examples from his own experience as a campus minister that serve to highlight how it works. His questioning methodology is an important step toward making our evangelism more personal. The tendency to run over folks in the midst of trying to communicate our pre-packaged digest of the Gospel is disturbing at least and destructive at worst. Neuman’s insistence on the necessity of a personal encounter, listening to the other person and responding to their specific concerns was very rich. The second section of the book in which Neuman responds to a number of specific challenges is helpful but spotty. Some conversations, suggestions are far more helpful than others. The conversational format is helpful. Supplementing his material with Doug Wilson’s Persuasions fills up some holes and directs the conversations to the power of presuppositions in our reasoning process. Overall very worth reading.