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Category: Missions Brigade Blog Posts

The Atoning Work of Christ

The Atoning Work of Christ

Many in our world have the sentiments of a man buried in a Roman cemetery who had ordered that these words be engraved on his tombstone: “I was not, I was, I am, I am not, I do not care.”

For people outside of Christ, life is meaningless. The good news that Christ rose from the dead changes that. All that we do or say in this life has eternal significance. The resurrection of Jesus Christ changes the way we think about life and death. Christ’s resurrection assures us that we have a hope beyond the grave. Now we think of death as the doorway to the fuller life. Since the resurrection changes the way we think about the next life, we can think about our present life in a new way too. When we study the sermons in the book of Acts, we see that the truth of Christ’s death and resurrection was at the heart of those messages. Christ’s triumph over death validated everything He had taught. Jesus claimed to be God. He claimed that He was the Truth and that no one could come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). The resurrection shows that He had the right to make such statements. If the apostles ever had doubts about their mission to proclaim Christ, they could always think back to those days following resurrection Sunday. They had seen the risen Christ. This was the message that everyone needed to hear.

The resurrection reversed the sentence of death caused by Adam’s sin. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22). Christ’s is Lord of the universe, “for he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet” (I Cor. 15:25). Jesus is the Truth. The life that He demonstrated is the life that Good intends for all of us. The ultimate victory of Christ began with the resurrection. The resurrection is linked to Christ’s atoning work. It indicated God’s acceptance of the sacrifice of His Son, “who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25).

Paul has given us some glimpses of the resurrection body. “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (I Cor. 15:42-44). We shall maintain the identity we have in this life, but we shall have transformed and glorified bodies. We can only wonder at what God has prepared for His redeemed children.

In areas where missionaries take the gospel, many people not only have a fear of death but also are afraid of their recently deceased relatives and friends. Often they pour the blood of an animal over their graves. They seek ways to assuage their supposed anger. They are afraid to act in any way they think might offend the dead. Their homage to their deceased relatives approaches the worship that should be reserved for the Lord. To these people comes the good news of the gospel. Christ is risen. He is the Lord of the spirit world.

As Romans 14:9 says, “To this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” Our faith in a risen Christ dissolves our fears. We have a hope for this life and forever.

Called to Stand Firm

Called to Stand Firm

One of the keys to success on any battlefield is to know one’s enemy; his strategies and devices. As Christians, we can know a lot about our dreaded foe from the Scriptures, including the fact that we are no match for him. The Bible, however, also tells us that we are not left to fight this battle alone. Our great God stands alongside us, assuring us of the final victory.

Spiritual warfare requires much preparation and discipline. Every Christian should be prepared for battle. This is especially true for those entertaining thoughts of servicing on foreign fields, which are often enemy strong-holds. It is hard enough to share the gospel firsthand with those who have never heard it. Even more difficult, though, is advancing the gospel while at the same time facing a fierce and relentless enemy. While we know that the final victory is ours, it would be foolish to assume that our battles are already over and that the pew offers a safe haven. Quite the contrary! As long as we remain on this earth, we must be prepared to defend ourselves against the forces of evil.

Those who follow Jesus now face a task similar to the children of Israel after crossing the Jordan into the promised land. They entered into the land by faith. Then they faced the task of defeating the Canaanites. The Canaanites can be an imposing force. Many missionaries have faced a similar foe while working in the mission field. Battles such as this cannot be won through our efforts alone. God requires only that we remain steadfast in our service to Him. There are many battles on many fronts yet to be fought and many territories yet to be claimed for God. There are many souls who need to hear the truth. There is much to do. While frontline warfare may be for a selected few, it is vital that we all stand firm in the place God has called us. When we do, He will provide the soldiers with flaming swords.

Exercise Compassion

Exercise Compassion

To reflect Christ is to do more for people than preach to them. The Lord Jesus did not just talk about helping those who came to Him. He actually helped them. James put it bluntly: “Faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:20). Missionaries do more than send letters and gifts overseas. They go themselves! I am sure the mere presence of a missionary from the West living in some corner of the world witnesses as powerfully as anything he says; and, of course, missionaries do much more. They feed the starving, care for the sick, and operate schools.

When John was in prison, he had to be absolutely sure that Jesus was the Christ. He had a message sent: “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matt. 11:3). Jesus told the messengers to look and tell John what they saw: “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt. 11:5). Jesus knew that John was familiar with the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. The Master was sure that telling John that these prophecies were being fulfilled would assure John of His identity as Messiah and bring comfort to His imprisoned friend.

We read in Mark 1:41 that Jesus was moved with compassion as He healed the leper. In one act, we catch a glimpse of the great love God has for all men and the reason the Son was sent from heaven to show His love in action (John 3:16). Missionary work can be described as one long exercise in compassion. In fact, it is impossible to be a Christian and have no interest in other people or desire to help them.

It is written that God is “not willing that any should perish” (II Pet. 3:9). When the Spirit of God enters us at our rebirth, one sure sign of His presence within is the compassion we feel towards others.

Personal Evangelism

Personal Evangelism

In this modern, technological age, some dismiss the value of personal evangelism on the premise that more of the lost can be won through television, radio, the internet, and print media. Modern media have proved to be of value in reaching the unsaved, but they are very expensive and must vie for an audience with entertainment and sports opportunities. Furthermore, evangelism has always had a personal element and our obligation to personal involvement cannot be deeded to methods.

Home-to-home visitation personalizes the gospel and confronts the unbeliever with critical choices. The local church that is mobilized to reach its corner of the vineyard will see souls saved. In addition, the fellowship will discover that every aspect of their ministry pulsates with a new vibrancy. The book of Jude points out that lost people in three categories must be reached in personal evangelism. Jude 1:22, says, “Of some have compassion, making a difference.” This statement is interpreted to mean that there are many people, some in your community, who are not bitter enemies of God. To some extent, they are open to the gospel and should be reached.

Verse 23 describes a second category when it speaks of “pulling them out of the fire”. These could be hardcore adherents of cults and false religions who are steeped in unscriptural systems. Most believers shy away from reaching out to these people, but Jude emphasizes that we must try. Finally, there are those in “garment(s) spotted by the flesh.” Some scholars believes  these may be those whose lifestyles have the “aura of glamour, gaiety, and seductive appearance.” The warning is for the soul-winner to avoid falling into the very same compromising sin.

Perhaps the most neglected tool in evangelism is simply inviting the lost to a church service or activity. In churches that have regular exposition of the Word of God, it should be the believer’s habit to invite unsaved loved ones, friends, and neighbors to experience the clear teaching of biblical truth. Churches who do well typically hold home-to-home campaigns on a regular or occasional basis. Believers with an infectious personality can perform an invaluable service by taking up the high points of your church. Is the music a high point? Do you have special activities for children or teens?

Those who are comfortable in witnessing should be regularly assigned to contact neighbors around the church. New believers often have the most zeal for soul-winning and the freshest kind of appeal.

Sinful Compromise

Sinful Compromise

The account of Solomon’s downfall affords abundant lessons for any Christian missionary. Let us briefly note several of them. First, the word of God is both relevant and applicable and must be obeyed by every generation. God had never revoked His command not to intermarry with the nations around about, but Solomon paid little attention. He disobeyed, and it ultimately lead to his undoing. Even today, the man or woman of God must not marry those outside the faith. One must honor the Word of god despite one’s emotions, which can often lead one astray.

Second, God’s servants must keep in mind that they have feet of clay. They are not above temptation. They can fall into sin as quickly as anyone else. Sin is defection from any of God’s standards. It is a lack of conformity to the moral law of God, either in act, disposition, or state.  It is anything in man that does not express, or which is contrary to the holy character of God. Once God’s servant has fallen, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to regain the respect of those to whom he would minister. Due diligence of the soul must be a top priority. It is necessary for any effective ministry.

Third, God’s servant should not be overly confident of his spirituality. Just because he is called of God and is in the place of God’s appointment does not mean he is impervious to the wiles of the devil. Solomon at one point writes: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). It would seem he either disregarded his own advice or came to such knowledge the hard way.

Fourth, the missionary often goes to people groups in which idolatry is rampant and he must watch that he does not compromise with the idolatry in order to gain acceptance. In wanting to show oneself friendly one can sometimes take part in something that either is not edifying or involves outright compromise. It takes great discernment and wisdom to know how far to enter into the customs and culture of those to whom one goes. It is often best to take things slowly and always prayerfully.

Fifth, as the missionary sees converts to the gospel and seeks to establish a Christian church, he must guard against syncretism. Unless those converted to Christ have no background in idolatry or false religion, they will often bring with them certain practices from their former worship. The missionary must be watchful so that unchristian practices and ideas do not gain a foothold in the church of God. Once allowed, they soon become tradition; and tradition is often difficult to up-root. Finally, the missionary must keep in mind that he stands to be disciplined and judged by the Lord Himself. He is not above God’s law. As Scripture says, “Judgment must begin at the house of god” (I Pet. 4:17).

No person is indispensable in the Lord’s work. Some have achieved many great things for God. Some may have pastured large churches, seen many come to the Lord, written helpful books, spoken to large crowds, or been a mentor to many; yet, if need be, God will chasten them with appropriate judgment. The servant of God must always watch his own soul and his walk before the Lord and before men. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that fear thee” (I Tim. 4:16).

Integrity of Missions

Integrity of Missions

The concept of change is a strategic element in the definition and implementation of missions. Missions agencies have historically struggled with the question of whether the goals of change should be personal and spiritual or societal as well. This blog entry seeks to argue that the priority change of missions must be personal and spiritual.

The Apostle Paul placed an emphasis on God’s plan of salvation in the context of prophecy. The prophetic event that Paul concentrated on was “the day of the Lord” (I Thess. 5:2), with its implications for both believers and nonbelievers. The main point for both groups as that a future judgment is inevitable. In light of this coming judgment, believers should not be spiritually indifferent and lethargic. They should maintain a commitment to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to nonbelievers. Meanwhile, nonbelievers should not be fooled into a sense of calm just because the coming judgment has not yet occurred. Nonbelievers must deal with the truth that they will not escape judgment unless they trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Throughout the history of missions, certain organizations believed that change was to be primarily social and temporal in nature. In the period of Enlightenment, the missionary emphasis was placed on the moral improvement of humanity. This emphasis resulted in the social gospel and its evolutionary optimism.

In the twentieth century the social gospel evolved into liberation theology, which believed that the missionary effort should aim to achieve personal liberation by overthrowing the existing order and oppressive structures. In both periods, evangelical Christians reacted strongly against these humanistic missionary derivatives. Bible-believing Christians strongly embrace the concept that the missionary endeavor must result in change that is personal and eternal in nature. Liberation from sin can be achieved only through the preaching of the good news of the gospel.

Today’s missionary must be convinced that a nonbelieving young couple who are contemplating marriage need to first believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Today’s missionary must be convinced that a dying nonbeliever needs the gospel first and foremost. Any individual who comes to the missionary for counseling because he is struggling with severe guilt needs to hear the good news of the gospel. There is absolutely nothing more important for the missionary than to offer the eternal hope of the gospel.

Hope for the Future

Hope for the Future

Most professional basketball players get paid a great deal of money each year whether they play or not. One player’s knees were injured recently, and he sat on the bench for most of the season. Still, the team owners valued him so much that he collected full salary anyway. When he does play, he has incentive clauses in his contract that allow him to earn bonuses: more if he scores over a certain number of points, more if he makes the all-star team, more if his team makes the play-offs.

If this strikes you as outrageous, consider your own situation as a believer. Simply because you trusted Jesus Christ as your savior, you have been given a no-cut contract guaranteeing your eternal life in heaven. There are “bonuses” of joy, peace, and satisfaction in service if you live an active Christian life now. A professional basketball player gets paid full salary while sitting on the bench because of an injury. Christians may get sick, suffer disabilities, even lose their power of speech, or be confined to wheelchairs: but their salvation is never in jeopardy. In fact, the One in charge works all these disabilities together for good so that the blessings never stop coming. In short, our God takes far better care of His children than the world takes care of people. The best the world can do is give money rewards to individuals with exceptional talent. In contrast, the gospel rewards ordinary believers with blessings both outward and inward. “I will put may law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33).

What kind of God rewards those who obey Him by changing them on the inside so that they can serve Him wholeheartedly and even enter into the very purposes of the One they love? It should surprise no one that Christians are eager to spread the good news about such a generous Benefactor. Would it not be surprising if such a gospel did not impel a worldwide missionary movement?

A man by the name of John Paton lost his wife and child during his first tour of duty as a missionary in the South Sea islands; yet he returned and established an orphanage, schools, and a thriving church. Describing his first communion service, he wrote, “At the moment I put the bread and wine into those dark hands once stained with the blood of cannibalism, now stretched out to receive and partake of the emblems and seals of the Redeemer’s love, I had a foretaste of the joy of glory that well nigh broke my heart to pieces. I shall never taste a deeper bliss till I gaze on the glorified face of Jesus Himself” (Auto-biography, quoted from http://www.sermoncentral.com).

The worldwide missionary movement, with the thousands of missionaries who serve Christ as Paton did, is powerful evidence that Christ is indeed risen and sustains His church today by His own presence and supernatural power. He is blessing those who obey His Great Commission by answering their prayers and making them fit for heaven.

Encouraged to Persevere

Encouraged to Persevere

In II Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica who were enduring a cauldron of persecution and affliction. Instead of yielding to the intense suffering and retreating into a hardened, loveless protectionism, the Thessalonians gave up their hearts and souls to the Lord and were a fragrant, redemptive blessing to all the churches around them.

The Apostle Paul provided the Thessalonians with encouragement to persevere in the midst of their suffering. Several practical lessons can be learned from his encouraging words. First, believers who suffer possess the ability to offer others thankful compassion (II Thess. 2:13). Second, suffering believers can reassure others of God’s promises (vss. 13-14). Last, suffering believers can exhort others to “stand fast” (vs. 15) in Christ. The purpose of this blog entry is to apply these lessons to people who are called by the Lord to the ministry of missions. First, the missions of those who are called by the Lord to the ministry of missions should be driven by strong compassion for a suffering world. The heart of the missionary must be the heart of Jesus Christ, who personified compassion. Missionary compassion must be the fundamental and urgent spiritual response to people who are suffering and in need. It is no coincidence that many missionary agencies have the term “compassion” in their titles. This is absolutely appropriate, for these agencies see the suffering world through the eyes of Jesus Christ. It is this focus that motivates these agencies to maintain their commitment to reach the suffering world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Second, missionaries experience spiritual suffering so they can reassure others of God’s promises. Missionaries often accomplish this task through teaching the Word of God.

Finally, missionaries experience suffering for the purpose of exhorting others to stand firm in their commitment to Jesus Christ. The fulfillment often comes when a missionary is on furlough. During this time at home promoting their ministry in supporting churches, missionaries serve as models to many believers of people who persevere in the midst of suffering. Their authentic, powerful testimonies exhort believers to “stand fast” (II Thess. 2:15). Although sharing God’s Word is always a priority, God often uses missionaries who experience suffering to help others find a light in their times of darkness. They remind us not only of where our suffering leads but also of the tender hand of the God who leads us.

Betraying Jesus

Betraying Jesus

Judas Iscariot’s betrayal alerts us to the fact that no one is exempt from the possibility of betraying Jesus. As the disciples sat together with Jesus at the last supper, Jesus made an announcement: “Behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table” (Luke 22:21).

After each of the disciples had dipped his hand into the bowl with Jesus, Jesus announced that someone close to Him, one of His followers, one of His companions, was about to betray Him. Although the individual was not specifically identified by Jesus, he was a comrade of Jesus. Judas perhaps afraid of exposure because the other disciples had asked, if they were the guilty party, also asked, “Master, is it I?” (Matt 26:25). Judas asked whether he was the one who would betray Jesus. Betrayal occurs in various forms. It appears that Judas’s betrayal may have been rooted in monetary gain. He exchanged loyalty for lucre, friendship for finances. Evangelists, missionaries, and missionary agencies are not beyond betraying their loyalty to Jesus for lucre, their call for coins. We need to make our dollars count for missions and outreach. We should not make our money scarce. Churches and individuals are, however, to hold evangelists, missionaries, and mission agencies accountable for their support. If you financially support a missionary you have not heard from in six months to a year, how do you know he is still in the field? Perhaps he has returned home and taken a job.

Are you supplementing someone’s income or supporting missions? Regrettably, betrayals occur. Judas willingly betrayed Jesus for money. Keep in touch with those you support financially. Pray for those you support. Do not, however, allow your support to be misused by someone who has betrayed Jesus.