Category Archives: Blog Posts

Professing Christians: What Do We Do?

They’re Everywhere

If you have spent any time doing evangelism in the public square you have undoubtedly run into professing Christians. They are almost everywhere. Furthermore, if the brunt of your evangelistic endeavors falls into the scope of relational evangelism, they are there too.

This is the hidden reef of Gospel Advancement in Western Culture today. While we are moving further away from Judaeo-Christian values, we are still basically Christianized. As you go about the work of obeying the Great Commission, you will be dealing with people who are calloused.

Therefore, it is imperative that we have the proper perspective when meeting professing Christians. Furthermore, we need to know how to engage with people who “know” the Gospel and understand certain elements of it.

My aim in this article? To challenge, encourage and exhort, all Christians, to be ready to preach the Gospel to professing Christians.

Professing Christian Or Confessing Christian

I know I know. This next part will make me appear pedantic. However, this is something that I have been saying for years. Yet, I have a personally compelling reason to draw a clear line of distinction between the two.

I spent from the age of 5 to 33 as a professing Christian. Obviously, in my younger years that profession looked much different than it did when I was 22, 30 or 33. Yet, the older I got the more I clung to my profession. Moreover, it did not matter to me what my sin life was like, I still professed to be Christian.

Some of this was due in part to being raised in a culturally Christian region. At the time I was in school nearly everyone was “Christian”. Well, professing Christians at least. It was the real deal that was hard to find.

I would not have been able to put it into words, but I met some genuine Christians in school. They invited me to a mid-week program at their church, and they were on fire. It made me uncomfortable and I did not want to go back. I was the kid that used art time during VBS to make a picture of a Tie Fighter with glass etching. That should tell you something.

What I am saying is that there are differences between those that give lip service to being disciples and those that are. In Romans 10 Paul speaks of confessing your faith in Christ. Furthermore, he uses a very particular word in the Greek. He uses the word homolegeo. It means to say the same thing. In that context it denotes a person who has completely identified with Christ. Sold out. Professing Christians give verbal ascent, they do not identify with Christ fundamentally.

Taking Professing Christians At Face Value

I said previously, when actively engaged in Gospel Advancement in the West, you will encounter professing Christians. The ministry YouTube channel is replete with examples of these odd creatures. Some of them are affable and others are easy going. Some use their denominational affiliation to justify the most egregious of behaviors. Moreover, they wear their self-righteousness like a badge of honor.

I am often guilty of taking the professing Christians at face value. I am not quite certain what causes this in me. It seems to catch me off-guard especially when I am preaching in the open air. Sometimes, they walk by and give me a thumbs up, maybe that is what throws me off. Nonetheless, I tend to just thank them and keep on preaching.

I do find that when given the opportunity to engage in conversation with professing Christians it tends have one of two outcomes. The first, and most predominant outcomes is abject anger and vitriol. The one time I experienced actual physical persecution was from a professing Christian. The second of the two is affable agreement with the ideas of the Gospel but no real embrace of it as true. Moreover, these folks tend to be the most likely to tell me that I am doing it wrong.

I will state unequivocally, that any person who is disinterested in the preaching of the Gospel, or shows hostility to it, is not a Christian.  I am not talking about mere disagreement over methodology. This is deeper than that. Professing Christians tend to display their hearts in response to Gospel Advancement.

Furthermore, confessing Christians will rejoice when the true Gospel is going out into the world. Even when there is disagreement over methodology there should be rejoicing in the preaching. Paul expressed joy in even the selfish motivations of some.

How To Engage The Professing Christian

So, what happens when the inevitable comes along? What do you do when you hand a tract to someone and they tell you that they love Jesus? How do you press in with the Gospel on the friend that professes to be Christian, but you can tell isn’t?

These are maybe the most significantly difficult waters to navigate. They are both full of rocky outcroppings and treacherously deep water. That deep water can suck you down into the depths of self-righteous judgement if you are not incredibly guarded in your approach.

Therefore, it becomes imperative that as we encounter the professing Christian we keep the Gospel in sight. Moreover, as we rest in the sovereign will of God we can aim for that person’s conversion from professing Christian to confessing Christian.

When faced with this individual my conviction is that the way to address them is to ask one simple question. “What is the Gospel, what must I do to be saved?” Their response to this question will tell you all you need to know.

If you hear any answer besides the pure unadulterated Gospel you know how to proceed. What I like to do in many cases, depending on the level of resistance, is ask them if they have time to hear my way of presenting the Gospel. This often disarms the skeptical professing Christian. Moreover, it keeps you from jumping down their throat. Sadly, this is often the response of the frustrated evangelists.

Too often we feel that the most pressing issue is correcting faulty theology. Therefore, we immediately launch into theology 101. There is a time and a place for that conversation, however it shouldn’t replace preaching the Gospel in this context.

We need to listen to and engage the professing Christian. After-all, they are our neighbors.

A Quick Word On The Confessing Christians

There will be occasions where you will meet genuine believers while Advancing the Gospel into the world. This will happen in the context of both street level evangelism and in the course of relational evangelism. Sometimes I get irritated by what I perceived as distractions from my Gospel work. That’s my sinful pride rearing its ugly head.

I can only imagine that I alienated not a few true believers. These days I will stop preaching (if I am open air preaching that is) and engage with these folks. In a recent encounter I was approached by Ezrah and Chelsea while I preached. I am glad for that encounter and I encourage you to watch the video of our conversation and be encouraged as well. Chelsea and Ezrah will never know how much of a blessing they were to me that day. Furthermore, I believe that I have made new friends and gained a brother and sister in Christ.

In Conclusion

As with any evangelistic endeavor or undertaking, our end goal must be the glory of God. That is the goal of any undertaking involving Gospel Advancement. Moreover, the end goal of evangelism isn’t strictly the salvation of all who hear, and I address that topic in a previous article.

However, having said that, we must be about our Father’s business just as our Savior was. When meeting the professing Christians around you, be ready to press on them. Don’t just assume their righteousness because they profess Christ or claim to believe. None other than James reminds us that even the devils believe in Christ yet tremble at His name.

If we truly love our neighbors, we will not settle for allowing them to hear “Get away from me I never knew you…”

If you want to learn how to Advance The Gospel please reach out to me

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

The Church: Defending Her From Brisco (part 3a)

Abusing The Incarnation

Chapter 3: ReThink Mission: Incarnational Presence

Concerned About Incarnational Presence

Brisco opens chapter three with a telling statement, and he seeks to mislead the church. Read this quote from Darrell Guder:

In the incarnation of Jesus, God revealed himself as the One who is with and for his creation. Now, as the Risen Lord sends his Spirit to empower the church, we are called to become God’s people present in the world, with and for the world.”– Darrell Guder

Sounds wonderful right?

I want to state clearly that I do not deny in any way that Jesus was God incarnate. This is clear from early on in biblical history. Consider Genesis 3:14-16 where God tells the serpent, Adam, and Eve about the coming Seed that will dwell among men. Also consider Isaiah 7:10-16 where we are taught about Immanuel, God with Us. These passages are clear. God the Son will come and dwell as deity in the flesh. Christ will be incarnate.

However, I take exception in this opening quote. Guder and subsequently Brisco, laud the idea that somehow because Christ was incarnate we too are then able to live in an incarnational way. As the title of the chapter shows us, Brisco wants to teach us about “Incarnational presence”. Moreover, Brisco calls this the rooting of our lives and the gospel into the places we are already doing life.

The glaring problem with the phrase incarnational presence is that it is thoroughly unbiblical when it comes to mankind. Man cannot incarnate Christ. We are utterly incapable of meeting the most basic definition of what it means biblically.

Brisco counts on his readers being taken in by him and severely down plays the meaning of the word incarnate. He refers to the Latin and says that it means “in the flesh”. This is true. Yet theologically there is more to it.

Blaspheming The Incarnation

Brisco does something with the incarnation of Christ that I nearly tremble to repeat here. Under the section headed The Incarnation he makes this statement:

“The incarnation is God’s ultimate missional participation in creation (John 3:16-17). When God entered into our world in and through the person of Jesus, He came to live among us (eskenosen—literally, “set up a tent”): “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14, The Message).

Can we look at that for a moment? Brisco quotes the Message bible and downplays exactly what it meant to the Jewish author of the Gospel. Nearly every translation has translated this passage as “dwelt among us”. Moreover, when we understand the historicity of this text we can better grasp exactly what was happening.

Most biblical scholars understand this passage to read “and the Word became flesh and tabernacled amongst us.” Brisco completely misrepresents what it meant to set up a tent. Furthermore, for Brisco to use Peterson’s verbiage of “moved into our neighborhood” shows just how sacrilegious he is willing to be.

When John wrote that Christ set-up a tent he was hearkening back to the days of the ancient tabernacle. John was painting a vivid picture for his audience, and that includes us. John wanted them to know that God the Son had come and dwelt among them in a physical body. They would have understood this because of the Tabernacle being the dwelling place of God on earth.

This wasn’t a mere moving into the neighborhood. It was humiliating for Christ. Yet Brisco has an agenda. He wants to contextualize the presence of the Son so he can make a point that scripture never supports.

Brisco picked this passage and the paraphrase, known as the Message, because he is going somewhere.

Sage Scholars Would Never Accept Brisco Neither Should Your Church

John Calvin

As I dwelt on what Brisco was saying by quoting the Message I did some digging. I decided to consult a commentary of a man long since deceased to see if I was misunderstanding the incarnation of Christ. Maybe I was overemphasizing the word tabernacle.

Therefore in turning to that commentary I read this:

“For the word which he employs (eskenosen) is taken from tabernacles. He means nothing else than that Christ discharged on the earth the office which had been appointed to Him; or that he did not merely appear for the single moment, but that he conversed among men until He completed the course of His office.” –John Calvin

Brad Brisco

This may seem like Calvin is downplaying the Incarnation a bit. However, nothing is further from the truth. Calvin is saying the Incarnation was Christ fulfilling His appointed office.

What was Christ’s appointed office? It was the munus triplex; the three-fold office.  He was to be the Prophet, The Priest, and the King. Christ came to execute that office as only He could. Yes we are all part of the priesthood of all believers. Yet that simply means we are no longer in need of an intermediary apart from Christ. The church has long embraced this.

Moreover, only Christ serves in the role of prophet today. There is no longer divine revelation given to man according to Hebrews 1. We are certainly not kings. Since we own Christ as Lord that position can only belong to Him. Again the church has long accepted this.

So what exactly is Brisco planning on doing with his subtle word-play here. He seeks to mislead the church intentionally.

A Brief Word To The Church On Christ Dwelling Amongst Man

There is no way to over state how blasphemous Brisco’s view of Christ dwelling amongst man really is. His overreach in using the Message to describe Christ moving into the neighborhood is untenable and unacceptable. Moreover, for a man who seems to be well educated it is beyond the pale.

Jesus wasn’t merely coming and walking amongst mankind. He was bringing into the presence of man the very Image of God. He told them, the Jews, that in seeing Him they were seeing God.

Furthermore, His incarnation was more profound than that. As I stated before, the tabernacle was God’s dwelling place amongst Israel. It was the very presence of God’s holiness amongst His people. Having been cleansed the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies alone. The others would wait and listen for the sound of the bells on his robes. If God struck him dead the bells would stop ringing and he would be pulled out by the rope tied to his ankle.

This is the God who came and tabernacled amongst man. Jesus was the very earthly embodiment of God’s holiness on earth. It was this reality that caused the temple curtain to be torn in two when He died. There was no need for the temple- a tabernacle- any longer. Moreover, this shows us just how impossible it is for us to have an incarnational presence on earth.

I cannot incarnate Christ because He has gone on to dwell in heaven. We cannot incarnate the very Holiness of God because there is still sin that rages within me. I may have no fear of condemnation because I am in Christ, but I still could not bear up under the burning fire of His Holiness while still in the flesh.

 

Defining Incarnational Mission Into Mush

Read what Brisco says here in an attempt to define incarnational mission for the church:

“Now it is important to recognize that the incarnation of Jesus was a special, unrepeatable event. Further, as we enter into the world of others, we certainly cannot take on another’s identity in the fully integrated way that Jesus did. But we can make a distinction between the Incarnation with a capital “I” and incarnational ministry.”

Brisco recognizes that he is dangerous territory here and he is looking to misdirect the church. Moreover, did you catch the subtly of the statement? This is not what Jesus was doing when He was Incarnate. Calvin clearly would not accept that position.

Furthermore, what Brisco should be talking about at this point is the Three-fold office of Christ. Instead what he wants to do is take the exclusive incarnation from Jesus and give it to us. Worse still, he wants to make it seem like that was what Scripture intends for us to understand.

Watch what Brisco does here:

“Obviously, there is nothing wrong with inviting believers to model their lives after the life of Jesus. The apostles encouraged Christians to imitate Christ as a way of identifying with Him. Both Peter and Paul insisted that Jesus is to be the model for Christian living. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” – 1 Peter 2:21 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).”

Brisco rips these passages from their context to make it seem as if Scripture is teaching incarnational missions.  The intent of 1 Peter 2:21-25 isn’t incarnational missions. It is about suffering for the sake of righteousness. The 1 Corinthians 1:11 reference is misdirection as well.

Brisco plays fast and loose with versus knowing the church won’t be Berean.

We Still Haven’t Defined Incarnational Presence

Brisco attempts to give a definition of incarnational presence by quoting Missiologist (whatever that may be) Michael Frost:

“Second, those of us who wish to emulate Jesus should be aware of his equally humble willingness to empty himself and make himself nothing for the sake of God’s redemptive purposes (Philippians 2:6-7a). . . . To embrace an incarnational ministry, then, involves a willingness to relinquish our own desires and interests in the service of others.”

Please note that Brisco has yet to define what it means to have an incarnational presence. Moreover, what he has done repeatedly is assert a doctrine that cannot be defined or defended from Scripture.

I also need to point out that when Frost (and thereby Brisco), says “involves a willingness to relinquish our own desires and interests in the service of others,” they are missing the truth of what missions truly are. Thus far we’ve seen little reference to an actual definition of what missions are. Missions are about the preaching of the Gospel. Furthermore, even though the word “gospel” has been used, we have yet to see Brisco define what the Gospel is.

Moreover, if we can learn anything of Brisco from his associations we will see that the definition of gospel is skewed. Brisco and his compatriots, such as Frost, are all religious leftists with a very progressive view of the church and The Word of God.

These affiliations and connections expose an agenda. The more that he writes the more Brisco exposes himself. There is a deeply seated revulsion for the Gospel revealed in Brisco. I do not take joy in saying this in the least, but it is imperative that we see it. Moreover, it is imperative that it is exposed for the good of the Church.

In Conclusion

In my research it became clear to me that Brisco is masking something. I spent quite some time trying to ascertain what was so unsettling. The surface issues are easy to spot. However, there is something that is lurking just below the surface and it was bothering me immensely.

Here is what finally hit me. Brisco is pointing us from the proclamation of the Gospel to the idea that we are to live the Gospel. This is more than mere foolishness, it is utter wickedness. In a forthcoming article unrelated to this series I address this thought that has become so prevalent today. This isn’t just a merely misguided but okay mentality. It is utter blasphemy.

Furthermore, Brisco doesn’t want people to just live out the Gospel. He wants them to practice social justice. This has been evident from the start of the book. His entire end is not the advancement of the gospel but an advancement of a progressive agenda.

Any local church engaging in a study of this book has two fates. Both lead to death. Either the body is already dead or is dying. So much so it is in a desperate state trying to grab at any straw it can in an effort to draw breath into its being. Or, it will implement ReThink and it will die the death of compromise. These are the only two fates for such a body.

All that is left for the believer who takes part in such a study is to repent. Turn away from worldly compromise, and seek instruction from sound elders. To fail do so is to show that you possess itching ears and long to have your foolish heart and mind placated.

I welcome your thoughts…

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

The Gospel: To What End Do We Preach It

Are We Thinking Rightly

This may come as a bit of a surprise, but I am not sure we are thinking rightly about the Gospel. I have had dozens if not hundreds of conversations with other Christians who misunderstand the Gospel. When I say misunderstand I mean it in a very broad way.

In some cases, people do not know how to communicate the Gospel in a clear and concise way. Often what they will say things such as, “Jesus loves you and died for you.”, or “Jesus died so you can have a better life.” However, these are not Gospel statements, they are misunderstandings of what the Gospel produces.

Jesus Didn’t Die Because of Our Intrinsic Value

Furthermore, many will try and present the Gospel by making mankind the focus of Christ’s atoning work. “Jesus had to die because of how precious you are to God,” they will say. Not only is this not the Gospel, it is fundamentally dangerous. Moreover, it places mankind in the place of prominence.

Additionally, I have had conversations with professed Christians that misunderstand the intent of the Gospel. They have apprehended an understanding of the Gospel that has an end result in the conversion of all who hear. While this is a feel-good conclusion it is not a biblical deduction. Besides, it has more in kin with the concept that all loved ones who have passed have gone to heaven than it does the true intent of God’s word.

We must think rightly about the Gospel. Moreover, not only should we think rightly about the Gospel, we must preach it with the proper end in view.

Are These Views Truly Problematic

So, the question remains, are these views truly problematic? Of course, my response is yes. I could just end this section here. However, there is more to say

The problems I have with the examples I gave are not merely personal pet peeves. The problems are thoroughly biblical. So yes, these are truly problematic.

“We have the wrong focus when it comes to our view of the intent of the Gospel…”

Consider “Jesus loves you and died for you.” It sounds so wonderful and loving. Yet it lacks context. Jesus’ love is not an all-encompassing amorphous love that just floats around waiting to settle on people. Furthermore, love for man is not what drove Christ to the cross. Scripture teaches us, “for the joy set before Him Christ endured the cross.”

So, what was His joy. The joy of Christ was the fulfillment of the will of God and an abiding love and desire for, the glory of the Father. These loves are what drove Jesus to endure the cross. Our salvation is a glorious outcome of that joy driven love.

Is the End of the Gospel Always Salvation?

What of the thought that the end of the Gospel is the salvation of all who hear it? How is this problematic?

The problematic nature of thinking that the Gospel is always meant to save is that we see example after example in Scripture of people who are hardened upon hearing the Gospel. The parable of the sower is a perfect example of this.

To walk away from such passages with this view is to misapprehend the intent of the Gospel. Yes, it is good news. But no, it isn’t meant to save everyone.

God’s Word Accomplishes Its Intended Purpose

As I mentioned, the parable of the Sower, or the wheat and the tares, make it clear that the Gospel isn’t intended to save all who hear. Furthermore, the purpose of the Gospel is really two-fold. If we consider several passages of Scripture we can only draw one conclusion. The Gospel works in two powerful ways.

Therefore, I want us to start with Isaiah 55:11. The context of the chapter is the offer of mercy to a broad cross-section of humanity. Penultimately Isaiah 55 is a Gospel call and God is pleading with Israel through Isaiah, to understand how far His mercy will extend. Yet to keep them humble, God reminds them that His ways are far above their understanding and that He does not think the way they would.

Then He tells them this in verse eleven, “So will my word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

God has made it clear that we aren’t to be concerned with the results of His word when it is proclaimed. By concerned I mean worried about making sure we get the “right results”. Instead we are to trust Him to accomplish what He has intended and be faithful to proclaim. We are to be concerned about being faithful to proclaim His word rightly.

Does The Gospel Save All Nations and Creation

When we consider the Gospel in light of the Great Commission we are also moved a bit closer to properly understanding its intent. In Matthew 28 the disciples are commanded to go and make disciples of all nations. In Mark 16 the disciples are commanded to go preach the Gospel to all creation. Does this mean that the Gospel was intended to save all nations and all creation? Of course not. All it means is that the disciples were to be obedient to go and preach. They were to trust the results to God according to Isaiah 55.

Furthermore, Paul clarifies the intent of the Gospel even more for us in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17. Paul makes it known that the Gospel works as a sweet scent to those who are being saved. Moreover, it reeks of rot and death to those who are being hardened. In short, the wicked hate the light according to John 3.

…The Word is God’s Sword, it isn’t effective if broken before battle…

Biblically Proper

We must understand this to be biblically proper and effective in our preaching of the Gospel. If we set out to preach the Gospel with the idea that it must only do saving work, we are wrong. Furthermore, we will bend and shape it to our expectations, hoping to secure an end that we are not promised.

Is this not the root of the seeker sensitive movement? They water down the Gospel to appeal to the non-existent seeker. The overly sweet evangelists tell people that Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Yet, why? Because they do not rest on Isaiah 55:11. They do not know 2 Corinthians 2:14-17. They fear offense if they preach the Good News in its unadulterated form.

No, the Gospel is not meant to only save. Especially not all nations and creation.

The Conclusion

To conclude this well, hopefully, I want to say that this. The best means to understanding our role in Gospel Advancement is to understand the importance of understanding the Good News. Furthermore, understanding how to articulate it and convey it to others is essential.

I recently read a book on church membership. The author explains that to be allowed into membership in the body he is an elder in, one must be able to communicate and explain the Gospel well. This one simple step would alleviate much damage and mitigate against compromise.

We must trust the word of God and understand that He uses us to preach the Gospel. He then causes it to do what He would have it do. There is surety and comfort in that.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

Original Image Found At Christianity Today

Persecution: Are You Experiencing It?

A Brief Biblical History Of Persecution

There are maybe no more troubling passages of Scripture than those that promise us persecution. I am not talking about what Americans consider persecution. I mean biblical persecution, the raw, guttural, gritty “they hate us for the sake of righteousness” type of persecution.

In numerous places in the Gospels Christ promises us that we will face persecution. Paul, the most prolific writer in the New Testament, speaks about his persecution for the sake of the Gospel in man of the letters he wrote. Additionally, Peter talks about persecution at the hands of the world several times. 

Furthermore, Hebrews speaks about persecution in the days of the prophets. The author of that book describes it in great detail, leaving little to the imagination. Stephen is introduced to us as the first Christian martyr in Acts. Having gone to the synagogue in Jerusalem and proclaimed Christ as the Messiah and calling his fellow Jews to repentance, they grow angry with him. Yet, their anger isn’t to be easily settled. They carry Stephen away and stone him. The death blow coming with the aforementioned Paul (aka Saul) looking on in approval.

Throughout the totality of Scripture, we are given account after account of God’s people facing persecution. God is intentionally communicating something to us by recording these accounts. Moreover, He was establishing a truth that should be self-evident for us as believers today.

A Brief Church History of Persecution

Soon after the Church started to grow in numbers and spread geographically her people were faced with hostile resistance. History records that some of the worst atrocities were committed by the Roman Emperors. Early Christians were covered in pitch, staked to city walls in Rome. They were then lit on fire to serve as light for the Roman citizens as they walked the streets. Christians were often thrown into the arenas around the Roman empire to be fed to wild animals for entertainment. Furthermore, entire families were sent into the gladiatorial rings to be executed as tributes to the Emperor or local governors.

Make no mistake persecution wasn’t the tool of just the Romans. Jewish leaders persecuted the early Church as well. James was taken to the pinnacle of the temple and thrown to his death. When the fall managed to break his body but not kill him, they crushed his head with a large rock.

Yet, that wasn’t all. The Roman Catholic hierarchy persecuted any person who refused to comply with their dogmas. The Huguenots, in France, were hunted down and murdered in the thousands. Early Presbyterians in Scotland were persecuted without mercy. Entire families were burned alive. The reign of terror in England was so bad Queen Mary was referred to as Bloody Mary. Her name haunts legend and lore to this day.

In the modern era we have seen millions of Christians hunted down and imprisoned by communist regimes all over the world. China, The Soviet Union and many other nations have executed people for the mere crime of possessing a Bible.

The history is out there for all of us to read. Just pick up one of several books. Foxes’ Book of Martyrs. The Martyrs Mirror. Open Doors keeps track of the worst modern offenders.

Persecution According To Jesus

So, what does Christ tell us will be the cause of our persecution or martyrdom? Will it be the fact that we live outwardly moral lives? Could it be due to how kind we are to our neighbors? The answer to the last two questions is an emphatic no. Moreover, Jesus makes some very stark prophecies about persecution and what causes it.

One of the earliest looks at persecution that we get in the New Testament is in Matthew Chapter 5. But right now, you are saying “Hold on there Todd. That’s the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. Where does Christ talk about persecution?

Some of you may already know this, but for the sake of argument I will elaborate. Jesus goes through all of the blest are you statements and then wraps them up with a strange statement. “Blest are you if you are persecuted for my names sake and for righteousness sake. When men say all matter of evil things against you.”

“Hold on Jesus, what could you possibly be saying?”

Polycarp of Smyrna:
Burned at the stake in 156 AD for his refusal to cease proclaiming Christ.

Here was the end point of the Beatitudes and the start of the Sermon. Jesus has gone through and established what righteousness is to look like. He makes some powerful statements. You are blest for mourning over sin. Blest for being meek. Moreover, you are blest for being a peacemaker.

How on earth do things that are signs of righteousness lead to being persecuted for the sake of that same righteousness? Furthermore, does being persecuted for being a peacemaker make any sense at all?

What is pivotal to understanding the persecution that comes for the sake of righteousness is understood in the proper comprehension of peacemaker. Jesus wasn’t talking about keeping peace between people. He was talking about bringing peace between God and mankind.

Persecution And Righteousness

When Jesus pronounced that peacemakers are blest He was not talking about Nobel Prize winners. Moreover, His emphasis on being peacemakers

Nobel Peace Prize, really?

comes later in Matthew 5 when He begins to exposit the law.

Christ is telling His disciples and others gathered around that the true way to make peace is to preach the Gospel. Therefore, that is why He goes on to expose heart conditions that lead to adultery and murder in the heart. He is demonstrating for His disciples what it takes to bring people to peace with God. They must have their sin exposed to understand that they are not at peace with God.

Furthermore, Jesus goes on throughout all of the Gospel accounts to talk to people about their sin. The pattern repeats itself inexorably. The woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery. The rich young ruler and the parable of the wicked servants. On and on HE goes exposing sin.

Jesus is laying a groundwork for what it means to be a peacemaker. “You must expose their sin,” He seems to be telling His followers, “You need to cut to the heart and then cut out the cancer that is there.”

Additionally, we see how the world reacts to this from Christ’s very own words in John 3. He makes it clear that the unbelieving person is full of wickedness. They are wretched vile beasts that hate the light. They flee from it.

The powerful burning light of the Gospel exposes their wicked deeds; causes revulsion to rise up in them. Furthermore, when people are confronted with the light of the Gospel they rise up in anger. That was Christ’s prophetic promise when He spoke those words, ‘Blest are you when for my name’s sake.”

When It Isn’t Persecution

This may be the shortest section to read. Don’t be a jerk or act asinine. Period. End of story.

Moreover, I wish that some people would realize this as well. Scripture teaches us that as much as is possible WITHIN US, we are to be at peace with all mankind. Moreover, Scripture goes on to tell us that it is the Gospel that is an offense, and it best no be our conduct.

I am going to include several links to videos that demonstrate the way conduct offends over and above the Gospel. Pay close attention to the conduct of these charlatans. Ask yourself, is this the Gospel causing an offense or are these folks just being asinine?

In this video you see Ruben Israel and his crew carrying pig heads on poles and then being “persecuted”.

Here a “preacher” calls a Muslim man a filthy pig and uses other insulting language and when the “Christians” are attacked they actually fight back. This isn’t persecution; it’s asinine behavior.

Here is an example of another person being asinine in preaching. There is no Gospel presentation and no compassion. This isn’t Christ-like it is appealing to the flesh of the preacher. Even though there is much truth to the words of the preacher and the churches he is preaching in-front of is woefully wrong, this is not preaching the truth in love.

Persecution In The USA

At this point in history many Christians may never face the kind of persecution others around the world are facing. To some degree we are fortunate to have Constitutional protections from government interference.

Furthermore, public evangelism is relatively safe because we still see sound preachers out preaching the Gospel in hostile places. If persecution of Christians was at the levels of other countries all the sound evangelists would be dead or in prison.

Yet there is still persecution taking place. However, it is not nearly as virulent as it could be. Christian bakeries are facing fines for standing firm on their convictions. Christian men have been charged with crimes for preaching at abortion mills and gay-pride events.

I have personally had law enforcement called on me too many times to count. The world likes to use LEOs as their tool to silence the preaching of the Gospel. Fortunately, I have been blest to deal with constitutionally reliable officers in each and every case.

My persecution has also risen to new levels as of late. Thankfully they were minor assaults. All the same, those incidences are indicative of a growing hostility toward public proclamation of the Gospel.

Furthermore, just today, before I wrote this, (the article was already brewing in my head for other reasons) I had a man approach me (4 minute mark) as I was merely reading John 3 out loud in public. He confronted me with clear anger. He questioned my right to read the Bible in public and called me a choice name or two.

Also recently I had a college administrator try to kick me off campus for handing out Biggest Question DVDs.

Make no mistake, persecution is on the rise…

Persecution: Are You Seeing Any

I want to ask you now, are you seeing any personal persecution for the cause of being a peacemaker? I do not care what the context of your Gospel work may be. However, is your faithfulness to the advancement of the Gospel leading to your persecution.

Are there instances of friends abandoning you? Have you experienced slander and lying about your character for being faithful to proclaim the Gospel to friends and family members. My dear wife has seen a chilling in several of her familial relationships for her unrelenting pursuit of godly standards. Moreover, in one case an uncle attacked my character for using the event of my grandfather’s funeral to proclaim Christ. He blamed many issues. However, when pressed, he confessed to me that it was my firmness on the exclusivity of Christ.

Look, I want to be real with you. I am not talking about heated conversations with friends and loved ones. That isn’t persecution. I am talking about genuine biblical examples of persecution. Have you been physically assaulted or slandered and libeled? Is there anyone in your close circle of friends that has reacted vitriolically over your insistence that they need Christ for the expiation of their sins.

I can’t answer these questions for you. Only you can.

Persecution The Final Thought

I am going to plead with you here, examine yourself and whatever form your evangelistic work takes. Get down to the deep introspective work that is sometimes healthy for us. Really ask yourself if your Gospel work is leading to persecution. Can you point to definitive events where you’ve experienced persecution?

I want to close with this account because it is personal to me. Several years ago, my now seventeen-year-old son was about eight or nine. He was sledding on a hill by a local Roman Catholic property. Ethan went sledding with several other young men.

These young men started to use coarse and profane language and it stung my son’s ears. He boldly took them through the law and told them about Christ as best as he could at such a young age. These young men turned on him immediately. Pelted him with sticks and snowballs and chased him off from the sledding hill.

To his credit, my son displayed more maturity and biblical manhood than most adult Christian men today. He came home clearly upset but without any anger. He was hurting for those young men. At that tender age my son faced physical persecution long before I ever did.

Moreover, that incident convicted me about my Gospel work. If he, at that young age, could be that bold, where was my boldness?

A Challenge

Therefore, I want you to think of that account and look at your own Gospel work…

Does anyone hate you for the sake of the Gospel? Or all of your relationships comfortable and without conflict?

You may not feel the need to tell me the truth, but God knows better than you do…

Soli Deo Gloria!

Todd

The Church: Defending Her From Brisco (part 2)

ReThink: Undermining The Church

Since first being asked to humble myself and submit to the sole elder of the church that is studying this book I have taken a firm stand against the book and its author. Subsequently, I have been directed to not return to that church. As heavy as my heart is over this issue, I am relieved because God has clearly answered my prayers in regards to what direction to lead my family. While I am losing fellowship with some I truly love in Christ, it is a sacrifice I am willing to make for the sake of standing firm in the faith. I pray this man will repent f this error and pride. Moreover, I also pray that God will protect that local body and move its members to repentance over studying such vile poison. Please see the first article I published on this topic.

Chapter 2: Rethink the Nature of the Church

A New Attribute?

Mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an attribute
of God.
– David Bosch

From the outset of this chapter Brisco works to establish a basis for his flawed view of God. He quotes David Bosch (a liberal theologian from South Africa with ties to the World Council of Churches and a proponent of ecumenism. Brisco seems to take much of his philosophical positions from progressive leftist teachers with ties to the WCC). Bosch asserts that missions is an attribute of God. Brisco goes on to run with this assertion throughout this entire chapter and on into the book. It is clear that Brisco finds that the church needs massive cultural realignment.

The reference to God’s missionary nature being an attribute does not comport with sound doctrine and violates the orthodox views of His attributes. I agree that God most certainly sends us. However that sending flows from His attributes. Missions are God’s grand design to glorify Himself. To make it, missionary nature, an attribute, is Brisco’s way of eisogeting his paradigm shift motif into God’s character.

In wanting to do justice to this chapter I have exhausted the orthodox resources I could find that explain all of God’s attributes. In none of those lists, established by orthodox theologians, can you find a single mention of God being missionary. This language only creeps into the vernacular of the progressive emergent church. As I recently told one young man, to add an attribute that no other sound theologian has ever named is bordering on blaspheme.

When Presuppositions Win The Day

After having spent the entire first chapter of the book ignoring Scripture, Brisco works to eisogete his presupposition into the bible as he quotes passage after passage to support his point. What Brisco fails to understand is what I mentioned previously. Yes, God sends us, but that sending is the result of Who God is, not an out-pouring of an imagined attribute. God is not obligated to send.

Furthermore, the church should be on mission. I would never argue against that. However, when one has to build their premise on the faulty base of a previously unrecognized attribute, they’ve lost their argument.

Therefore, I would posit that we teach biblical evangelism. This can be done by looking at any number of Old and New Testament passages. Moreover, God has given us wonderful examples of what evangelism looked like in the early church. All one need do is read Acts and most of the epistles.

Missing the Point

In the section labeled The Reformation Heritage View, Brisco begins his attack on the orthodox intent of the Church. He does this subtly but with great skill. Brisco is like a surgeon excising a cancerous growth from the brain of a patient, pay close attention:

“While each of the three marks are important aspects of church life, this view has left us with an understanding of the church as a place where certain things happen. In other words, a person goes to church to hear the Bible taught “correctly,” to participate in the Lord’s Supper and baptism and, in some cases, to experience church discipline. Once again, all very good things, but is that the way we want to define the church? Does a place-where-certain-things happen understanding speak to the real essence and nature of the church?”

Note how Brisco puts the word correctly in scare quotes. He is setting the reader up to question whether or not they have actually been hearing the Word taught correctly. Brisco then goes on to whittle away at his own assertion that things like the Lord’s Super, baptism and church discipline are good things. He does this by asking if those things speak to real nature and essence of the church.  He even uses cynicism by doing this “place-where-certain-things-happen”.

What Should The Church Really Be Up To

The Scriptures are clear in numerous places that the local church is to be about the business of baptizing new converts, administering the Lord’s Table and even church discipline and especially preaching sound doctrine. As point of fact, Paul emphasizes the importance of teaching sound doctrine to Titus in chapter 2 of that epistle. This emphasis is given in many epistles such as Galatians, Jude, James, and 1 John. Furthermore, Scripture is clear that that is the role of the gathering of the local church, teaching and administering the sacraments.

It is in the teaching of sound doctrine and the administration of the ordinances that the local body is prepared and equipped to Advance the Gospel. Therefore, we do not need to ask ourselves if the real essence and nature of the church is about a place where certain things happen.

We need to ask ourselves if the doctrines we claim to adhere to are motivating and informing our actions. We need to adhere to the purpose of the local church and that will conform us to the image of Christ. That conforming will push us out of our comfort zones. That will in turn push us out into the world to Advance the Gospel.

Stop Building Strawmen Brad

Under the heading of Contemporary Variation View I agree with his assessment of what many see as a problem with what passes for much of modern Christianity. However, his slanderous accusation that the Reformation Heritage perspective is guilty of the same myopic view as the Contemporary View is sickening:

“The church is seen as an institution that exists for the benefit of its members”

This is not a Reformed view in the least and no orthodox non-Neo-Reformed congregation sees church like this. His use of that strawman argument works to expose that he clearly has no concept of the true purpose of the church, either local or universal. See this following quote:

“The alternative vision of the church is to see it as a people called and sent by God to participate in His redemptive mission for the world. The nature of the church—rooted in the very nature of God—is missionary. Rather than seeing ourselves primarily as a sending body, we must see ourselves as a body that is sent. Of course, the church still gathers, but the difference is that we don’t simply gather for our own sake, but instead for the sake of others, or better yet, for the sake of God’s mission.”

Taking A Justified Exception

The reason I take exception to this is because of his faulty and slanderous accusation against the Reformed view of the church. Brisco’s critique may be well placed against most of what passes for church in the West today. However, it is not well suited to those with a proper (read Reformed) ecclesiological position. Furthermore, the idea that the church gathers for the sake of others is wrong on its face. I do not gather for worship corporately for those outside of the church. Believers  don’t gather corporately for the services they get out of the church. We gather corporately with whatever local body, to glorify and worship God. That is the primary purpose of the corporate gathering.

The By-Product of Worship

The by-product of corporate worship is the equipping of the saints for works of ministry. Ephesians 4:11-16 puts a nail in the coffin of Brisco’s flawed argumentation:

“11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

Who Does The Church Gather For And Why

None less than Paul tells us that the point of the body is that it exists with all of its different gifting for the sake of building up of itself in love. The outpouring of this love then overflows from the church to others. Moreover, the church does not gather for others. She gathers for the proper equipping of the church by evangelists and elders and teachers. This keeps her from being led astray by false doctrine and scheming men. This passage, properly understood, would see Brisco and his teachings kicked out of any sound church with sound elders.

Brisco ends the section on the two models with this apparently beautiful quote from Lesslie Newbiggin:

“The church is the bearer to all the nations of a gospel that announces the kingdom, the reign, and the sovereignty of God … It is not meant to call men and women out of the world into a safe religious enclave but to call them out in order to send them back as agents of God’s kingship.”

Sadly, once one researches Newbiggin they will find he was heavily involved with The World Council of Churches and ecumenism. Newbiggin was influenced predominantly not by Christian theologians, but by secular philosophers. The WCC is to this day a leftist Marxists organization that promotes apostasy and rejects orthodoxy. Knowing this about the man who Brisco quoted we can start to see even more of the issues and problems with Brisco

Why All This Matters; Good Question Brad

Here in the last section (Why All This Matters), Brisco shows this chart:

page 14 chapter 2

This chart is then explained by defining what m0 through m4 mean. Each number is a scale of influence of contact and familiarity. The smaller the number the more likely you are to receive a warm reception from the people in that range. The higher the number the more distant or damaged by the church the person is likely to be.

The last section of chapter 2 is almost too much to bear. It is a page right out of Gramscian Theory and has its roots in Intersectionality. The Scriptures do not ever present people in groupings or classes that are at varying levels of acceptance to the message of the Gospel.

One can argue that perhaps when Jesus says “it is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter heaven…” there is a bit of class distinction. One may even try and build a faulty argument that “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” makes a class distinction. However, to do so would be further eisegesis.  Moreover, it becomes quite evident as time goes on that there are only two classes of people, the lost and the saved. There are those who hate God and those who love Him. Those who hate God and despise the Gospel are all equidistant from God. They are not further in or further out based on their culture or their experiences.

Are There Distinctions Between Unbelievers?

Lydia was a rich woman. Felix was a ruling class centurion of Rome. The eunuch was servant with great power. Peter healed a beggar and saw him converted. Paul preached to philosophers on Mars Hill and in the Areopagus. Jesus went to publicans and prostitutes and to the houses of the ruling elite of Jerusalem.

Moreover, Jesus preached the Gospel to a Samaritan harlot at a well in the middle of nowhere. She then went to her fellow villagers. All of that despite massive cultural differences between each person. Paul preached in the court of kings and in prisons. In all of these cases people were not closer to or further away from God. They did not hate the Gospel because of their class identification. They were all sinners that before the work of the Holy Spirit, hated God and the Gospel. Jesus didn’t cut those who had been abused by the religious elite any slack. Instead He called them and the religious elite to repent.

In Conclusion

We have to be completely biblical with how we view people. The scale presented is a secular model built on secular humanism (at best). At worst it is willfully built on Social Marxist theory. Chapter 2 is both philosophically and biblically twisted. Despite the areas where I find myself in agreement with Brisco I am compelled to dig even deeper. I need to expose the roots of Brisco’s man-centered secular ideology. These ideologies permeate his writing and it exposes his position rather readily.

Please feel free to contact me with questions and objections.

Sole Deo Gloria!

-Todd

The Church: Defending Her From Brisco (Part 1)

ReThink: Undermining The Church

Chapter 1: The Need to Rethink

I was recently asked to read a book written by Brad Brisco of the North American Missions Board and the Send Institute. As I dug into both Brisco, and The Send Institute, I developed grave concerns. Upon sharing these concerns with my elder, I was called to humble myself and learn to take guidance from even people I disagree with. Therefore, I have chosen to write a critique of ReThink  and publish my thoughts here on the ministry page. I made this decision because the book is an assault on biblical evangelism and missions work. It is my desire to warn the Church about what I see as poison. May God be glorified.

-Todd

Dangerous Trend

From the outset of this work Brisco endeavors to rely wholly on the thought processes of the secular world. The opening quote of the book is from Alvin Toffler and it is telling:

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

“However, Brisco is setting the tone as we go further into the depths of even the first chapter. Brisco, in an apparent effort to motivate the church to become more “Missional”, fails to quote so-much-as one passage of Scripture in the entirety of the first chapter…”

It is not inherently evil to quote a secular author such as Toffler. Paul quoted pagan poets and philosophers many times; but Paul was inspired and he was making a spiritual point. However, Brisco is setting the tone as we go further into the depths of even the first chapter. Brisco, in an apparent effort to motivate the church to become more “Missional”, fails to quote so-much-as one passage of Scripture in the entirety of the first chapter. Moreover, Brisco establishes an ultimatum of sorts with his opening quote. He wants to change the way the Church thinks, and he will spend the body of his work trying to accomplish that task.

Pragmatism and Sabotage

Please read this quote from Brisco:

“To lead disciple-making, missional-incarnational churches that have a mind-set of reproduction will take deep cultural change in the way we think about God’s mission and the nature of the church, as well as how the church engages in that mission in local contexts. We must change our attitude from “we have never done it that way before” to “whatever it takes.”

This statement is the very definition of pragmatism and it is devoid of any biblical context. More troubling is the reference to changing the nature of the church. I can tell you from having listened to Brisco in an interview from March of this year; he is all about changing the ecclesiology of the Church. When given the chance to rebuke egalitarianism he does not. I did a series of videos critiquing that interview on my YouTube Channel.

Furthermore, the early church didn’t have a mindset of whatever it takes. It had a mindset of “preach the Gospel” to all creatures. Moreover, they had that mindset because it was the mind of Christ.  The Church doesn’t incarnate Jesus, we do not embody Him. This is gobbledy-gook meant to sound awe inspiring.

Merriam and Webster define incarnate as: invested with bodily and especially human nature and form and made manifest or comprehensible. We make Christ known through the preaching of the Gospel and the proclamation of biblical truths. I do not “incarnate my life into a local setting”. We live in a local setting and love our neighbors as we love ourselves; through the ministry of the Gospel.

Doubling Down

“…Not to be out done by his opening quote by Toffler Brisco doubles down…”

Not to be out done by his opening quote by Toffler, Brisco doubles down. He wants to make it clear that he has a mission. What is that mission? Changing the Church. It wouldn’t be as troubling that Brisco continues to quote from secular motivational philosophers if he also relied far more on Scripture. Instead he chooses to rely on men like Simon Sinek. Who is Sinek you may ask. Sinek is motivational speaker and organizational consultant and author. Among his works is a book called “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”. Brisco references Sinek in his book by talking about how Sinek says you can either manipulate or inspire people to change.

While this is true, it isn’t something we need to turn to the secular pagan world to learn. The Scriptures should be our source for learning how to inspire change in the Church. Moreover, Paul wrote two thirds of the New Testament. Most of his epistles were rebukes toward the church for where they were failing. Not to mention the truth that Proverbs 17:10 calls a rebuke a good thing for one who has understanding.

Inspiring Change

Let’s look at Brisco’s take on this model of inspiring change:

“Another way to frame the discussion is to use the language of paradigm. The word “paradigm” is commonly used to refer to a perception, assumption or frame of reference. In the more general sense, it’s simply the way we see the world, in terms of perceiving, understanding and interpreting. Every organization, including the church, is built upon underlying paradigms or assumptions. This is not the same thing as the church’s beliefs or theological systems. Rather the paradigm determines how an organization thinks and, therefore, acts. Paradigms explain and then guide behavior. If we try to restructure an organization but leave the original paradigms in place, nothing will change within the organization. Therefore, for real change to take place we need to experience a paradigm shift or, in most cases, multiple paradigm shifts.”

Brisco is wrong in how he chooses to define paradigm. The functional definition of paradigm is this:
“a philosophical or theoretical framework of any kind” – Merriam and Webster

Our Cornerstone And Foundation

…”Christ is the cornerstone of the church according to Ephesians 2:19-22…”

Furthermore, Brisco reveals his plan over and over again. He has a desire to change the structure of the church. For the Christ exalting and biblically focused church the paradigm is already established. That paradigm is Christ and His revealed Word. What Brisco is saying is that the paradigm of the Church is not the same as what her beliefs and theological systems are. Moreover, Brisco is calling for a deeper paradigm shift for the Church, and this will become apparent as the book goes on. He will push the Church to focus on being shaped by the culture instead of shaped by Her calling to worship God.

Therefore, I would posit that Brisco is battling against a strawman of the church that has a paradigm that is not defined by Her beliefs and theological systems. This strawman is no Church at all. A local body, that is part of the Bride of Christ, by must needs, will have Christ as Her paradigm. Christ is the cornerstone of the church according to Ephesians 2:19-22. Being the cornerstone He is the very strength of the churches foundation. Furthermore, every individual believer will have Christ and Scripture as their paradigm. That is all the motivation the Church needs to be about the work of God in the world.

Not Christian Or For Christians

We need to keep our focus on the Word and that will inform our decisions and our actions. Furthermore the local church isn’t an organization that needs to be managed like a corporation or a business or a secular club, it is a body. All of Brisco’s verbiage is saturated with secular business model lingo. He leans so heavily on business models and structures that he becomes guilty of what he will go on to lambaste the visible church for as the book progresses.

The entire first chapter is one long motivational speech. Brisco never refers to Scripture in the body of the chapter. There is a brief use of Isaiah 43:18-19. Moreover, it is completely ripped out of context for the sake of making it seem like God is calling the local church to a paradigm shift. In short, chapter 1 was a waste of time for Christians and we have no business using it. I mean come on, not one quote from one Christian or the bible outside of the verse in the study questions.

If you have concerns please feel free to reach out to me.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

The Yardstick: The One Question I Won’t Ask

“I much prefer my manner of doing it wrong over your manner of not doing it all.”

D.L. Moody

I have one question I will not ask. While I won’t ask this question, others seem to feel free to ask it of me frequently. It is apparently the yardstick they use to measure the success of evangelistic endeavors.

The story is told of a rather proper little old lady acquainted with D.L. Moody. As Moody stood on a street corner preaching the Gospel and handing out tracts (at least in some versions of the story), the lady approached him. “Mr. Moody,” she stated curtly, “I do not much care for your manner of doing this. You are doing it all wrong.”

“Indeed madam,” came Moody’s reply, “Please tell me then the manner in which you do this.”

“Well I do not at all,” was her proper response.

“Indeed, then madam,” Moody retorted, “I much prefer my manner of doing it wrong over your manner of not doing it all.”

Poor D.L.

How does poor Moody’s story relate to the topic at hand you may ask? There are hundreds of protests registered against public evangelism and all of them have at their core this little old lady’s perspective. “You are doing it all wrong. Furthermore, I can prove it. Where are all of your converts?” With that the detractor considers the argument settled and won.

In a word, they have the yardstick out and they aren’t afraid to use it.

I’ve Lost Count

I’ve lost count. Not of my converts, but of the number of times the yardstick has been used against me. The question isn’t always asked in the same way. It has its variations.

“Why isn’t the church full of people you’ve talked to.”

“Where are all of your converts?”

“…The yardstick is broad and heavy, and people aren’t afraid to use it…”

“How can you possibly think that you are making disciples when you never see these people again?”

The yardstick is broad and heavy, and people aren’t afraid to use it.

When It’s Used As A Rod

I was the member of a church for a short time when the senior teaching elder pulled the yardstick out to beat me with it. “When will you finally give up and start doing it the right way? How many nights have you gone out and no one has shown up at church with you?”

That is as close as I can get to capturing that particular yardstick in its totality. The yardstick is often an elusive beast after all. I wanted to remind him that on one of my first nights out a group of three young folks actually did stop and talk to me. They actually showed up to worship the next day and a few other times. Yet at that point it would have been a fruitless exercise.

I was saved in 2004. In the subsequent years friends, family, fellow congregants, and even co-workers have used the yardstick on me all too often. Sometimes I perceive that question is asked with sincerity. Yet, after a while you can grow weary from the constant barrage.

The Yardstick And The Sovereignty Of GOD

In Isaiah 55:11 we are taught this, “My word which goes forth from my mouth will accomplish that which I have purposed it to do.” This one verse should be the yardstick by which all evangelistic endeavors should be measured. Moreover, a believer firmly ensconced in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty should put away the yardstick altogether, and rest in Isaiah 55:11. Sadly, this is rarely the case.

More often than not, pragmatism has won the day in even doctrinally sound churches. We tend to measure success anecdotally. The more stories one can tell of all the people they have won to Christ, the more successful they have become. Most of the people employing the yardstick would have considered Christ an abject failure when it comes to evangelistic work.

God’s Sovereignty In Salvation

Furthermore, the yardstick tends to consider success in evangelistic work only in terms of souls saved. If you have the temerity to suggest that your evangelistic work is successful even if no one is saved you will be met with looks of bemusement. Additionally, if you suggest that success is measured by faithfulness to the preaching of the Gospel and not in converts you may be beaten with the yardstick. You may even face church discipline if you dare to go full crazy and suggest that you are a success in your evangelistic endeavors if God uses your preaching to harden sinners instead of save them.

Unfortunately, one can only draw one conclusion, the sovereignty of God does not apply to evangelism.

William Carey and The Yardstick

Carey lost several children and his wife due to the living conditions in India…

William Carey was a missionary to India quite some time ago. Carey was bent outward towards others in a land that was brutally hostile towards Christianity. Much like today, for a Hindu to leave their faith and convert to Christianity meant expulsion from their family and rejection from the Caste system.

Yet Carey labored in India trusting God to be his guide. He labored for seven long and bleak years without seeing a convert. Read that again, seven years, no converts. According to the yardstick, Carey was a failure for those first seven years.

Carey Never Gave Up

However, I bet if we asked Carey if he was a failure he would laugh. See, William Carey recognized that we do not measure success in Gospel work by the number of converts. The yardstick that Carey used to measure success was faithfulness to preaching the word of God.

At the end of his life Carey was exhausted, but he had more converts to Christ than any of us could ever imagine. Yet, had he lived today laboring under the weight of the yardstick most use, he would never have made it to the eighth year.

The Yardstick And The Old Man On George Street

There is story that is told of an old man who lived in Australia. After coming to Christ, he almost immediately became passionate about evangelism. He would sit outside of his shop on George street and hand out tracts and proclaim Christ to passers-by. He was unstoppable. That is until old age made him frail and too ill to continue.

Eventually he was hidden away and nearly an invalid but not before a Baptist pastor went looking for him to tell him the astounding story of all the converts that came about as a result of his Gospel labors. As the old man listened was moved as he had never heard of any converts in all his years of ministry.

You see, the old man labored under the weight of the yardstick. He was prepared to die having never heard of one convert through his efforts. Furthermore, he was convinced he was a failure. Yet hundreds upon hundreds if not thousands were reached as a result of his faithfulness to God.

The yardstick is a terrible master and it will beat even the most dedicated Christian to the ground. Moreover, the only thing the yardstick is interested in is rigid standards. But, ask the old man from George Street, when you see him in heaven, “What do you think of the yardstick now?”

I Won’t Beat You With Your Own Yardstick

We may never agree on what sound evangelistic endeavors look like today. However, I hope we can grow closer to one another on the matter. Yet I make you one promise here and now. If I disagree with your approach to Gospel work, I may try and challenge you out of your comfort zones. But I will not beat you with the same yardstick you beat me with.

Therefore, I will never ask you where all of your converts are. I will not ask you why the church isn’t full on Sunday morning. I hate the yardstick. The yardstick is a cruel master. Simply put, I refuse to use it on you, because I know the damage it does. Furthermore, the yardstick you use, it isn’t based on anything in the Word. It is based off of personal feelings on the matter.

I promise I won’t ever ask

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

Discouraging Encouragement: How Not To Communicate

The Background

So back in the late summer of 2016 I was coming out of a rather heavy bought of depression. Some deeply personal things had gone on in our family. These things had managed to sink me down into a place of despair. I felt like David in many ways. I wish that I could say I responded as well as David. Moreover, I wish that I wept before the Lord so bitterly that my bed was soaked with tears. Instead I was bitter and angry; nearly suicidal. This is where discouraging encouragement comes in to play.

I realized that I had to find a way to be lifted out of the depths of shadows that had surrounded me. As I looked around me I could see the detrimental effects of my spiritual bleakness impacting my family. I repeatedly asked myself what I needed. Most often I would not answer my own inquiries. Yet, in a desire to remain in my bleakness I began discouraging encouragement from those who tried.

I grew even more burdened. There were several days where I was quite sure that I would not see the next day. The darkness had become my friend and discouraging encouragement had become my constant response. I was slowly cutting all the people who tried to lift me up, out of my life.

Furthermore, I was running away from the Gospel. Despite being a believer, I was resisting the Good News because I wanted to stay in the darkness. I had come to embrace the darkness of my depression because it felt better than living in the light. Additionally, the more people tried to reach me the more I tried discouraging encouragement.

However, the discouraging encouragement I am talking about now isn’t the topic I want to address.

The Gospel Solution

As much as I embraced the darkness of my depression I hated it as well. It left me feeling incredibly soiled. The worst of it was the reality that as it got to its darkest point I was not sure I was a Christian.

I struggled with wanting to die and having a terrifying sense that if I did I would face God’s wrath. I was left in a constant state of internal turmoil. Something needed to change and change quickly.

About this time several friends on Facebook began to talk about their struggles. Many of them were battling the same depression I was in. I was reminded of Spurgeon’s struggle with that dark beast. People were talking about Martin Lloyd Jones and his writings on spiritual depression.

Then the conversation shifted. Soon talk about the Gospel being brought to bear on depression sprang up. In addition, people stopped talking about depression as if it were sin.

For years I had been told that depression was a sin. Not just a product of sin, but a deeply rooted sin. Furthermore, any person caught in the throes of such a deeply rooted sin could have no confidence in their salvation.

“…Preach the Gospel to yourself, even if no one else is…” This wasn’t coming from some cliched Neo-Reformed upstarts. I was hearing it from solid Christians all over the country. “Preach the Gospel…!”

I was finding myself surrounded by people who understood what the darkness felt like. Moreover, I was hearing elders and pastors around the country confess that they were woefully ill-equipped to help. Up to this point all I knew was I could take medications or be in sin. That was changing before my eyes.

Then I heard something that I had never considered when facing my depression. “Preach the Gospel to yourself, even if no one else is…” This wasn’t coming from some cliched Neo-Reformed upstarts. I was hearing it from solid Christians all over the country. “Preach the Gospel…!”

Discouraging Encouragement: Can We Get To The Point?

My biggest issue was that I had no idea what it meant to preach the Gospel to myself. I was caught in this quandary where I wanted to be better but wasn’t sure how to go about it. God moved again and put videos, (many of them on Facebook Live), of street evangelist in front of me. I didn’t search them out, not by a long shot.

I had been absent from street ministry for years. Some of it for good reasons, some of it out of laziness. Yet, I noticed something as I watched these videos, the preaching of the Gospel in hard places encouraged my soul.

I determined to head out and hit the streets again. I knew I was going to be out alone. This was daunting to me. I had spent so much time discouraging encouragement from others I was certain that no one would want to go along.

I was a nervous wreck. Furthermore, I felt sinfully disqualified. The longer I descended into the darkness the worse my sin took hold.

I didn’t want to stand on the street in front of a bar or anywhere else and call people to repentance. I felt like a hypocrite. Yet I knew I needed to go.

Therefore, I set a date in my mind and resolutely determined to go. I reached out to a few of my like-minded Facebook friends and asked for prayer. I announced my plans, and off I went. Terrified in ways I had never felt before…

So Where Does Discouraging Encouragement Come In?

On that first foray out into the world I headed for the small city of Albert Lea Minnesota. Albert Lea was the home of the church I was in at the time. The drive would last about an hour for me, so I filled the time with two things.

The first was a phone call and prayer with my dear brother George Alvarado. George and I met through Facebook and have a shared passion for the public advancement of the Gospel. Furthermore, George and I share many of the same views on what passes for evangelism today.

Please look for and read George’s book! It is challenging and convicting…

That call was magnificent. It was the most soul stirring and encouraging conversation I had had in months. When George and I ended the call, I decided to go live on Facebook and talk about my first evangelistic endeavor in Albert Lea. I believed it best for me to confess that I was a trembling mess of a man.

I began to explain my reasons for my trepidation. There was much doubt in my mind about my ability to start a spiritual conversation. I doubted my ability to reason or give a defense for the hope that was within me. I doubted anyone would listen.

Over and over as I spoke in this video my fears assailed me. Worse yet I began to feel guilty for those fears. I came very close to turning around and heading home, ready to resign myself to ineffectiveness. The glorious conversation with George began to slip from my view. Now I was discouraging encouragement in myself.

However, it wasn’t long before the comments started to come in on my video. Some said they were praying for me. Others said they were encouraged by my boldness.

But for one. There is always one isn’t there…?

The Destructive Power Of Words

A dear brother in Christ that I have long respected popped up in the comment section of the video. I know that his intent was to provoke my obedience to the Great Commission. Nevertheless, the comments were not encouraging in the least.

Soon I was confronted with my fear. I was told that my feelings and doubts were the result of pride. Furthermore, as the encouragement went on I learned about my fear of man. This attempt to inspire me became the most discouraging encouragement I had ever experienced.

Moreover, I was shattered, guilt stricken I had overlooked the sinful pride that was making me react that way. I wasn’t inspired, I was wrecked. Weighed down by a burden, needing to kill my sinful fear of man, I set out for my first location. My feet, instead of being light, felt nailed to the ground in guilt.

There is no way that this brother could know what it was he had accomplished that night. In my perspective, he sat in his ivory tower hundreds and hundreds of miles away, laying down rebukes that sapped my energy. Still I went on, out of fear that failing to do so would prove my wretchedness.

I had just suffered the most discouraging encouragement I could think of…

How Not To Communicate

My simple counsel to you as you read this? Be quite careful with the way you choose to encourage people. Is there never a good time to rebuke or reprove a brother or sister in Christ? Of course, there is. Moreover, we often need those rebukes when we least want to hear them.

Yet, sometimes we rebuke too readily, and the rebuke is misdirected. Furthermore, instead of hitting sin it puts out a smoldering flax and breaks a bruised reed.  Our Savior wants us molded and shaped into His image. This does not always mean we need a rebuke. Often it means that we are to double our efforts in understanding what our fellow believers are going through. Together we can face those trying times and overcome them in Christ.

Don’t let your words of inspiration turn into words discouraging encouragement. Live with one another in understanding and forbearance.

For those of you who face the dark beast of depression, you aren’t alone. There are many of us out there. Sadly, many elders/pastors and street evangelists struggle against the beast. Some even lose that fight. If you believe you have nowhere to turn, turn to me, I will understand. I will not accept discouraging encouragement because I know how destructive it can be. Don’t drive people away.

If you need help and don’t know where to look, reach out to me. If you have ever been hurting and I made your pain worse, reach out to me. Furthermore, if nothing else listen to my words in this article, they are meant to encourage.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

Apologetics: Why Everyone Should Practice It

 

The Context of Apologetics

There isn’t one Christian who is passionate about seeing souls saved that doesn’t at some point face their worst nightmare. What is this terrifying beast? It is none-other-than the “will informed” detractor. It has many faces. Sometimes its face is that of the common atheist. At other times it takes on the shape of the progressive Christian. Still other appearances are in the guise of the Christian cults. What each of these has in common is an answer for every orthodox Christian position. Moreover, they each practice their own version of apologetics.

More-often-than-not, the apologetics of these opponents are well formulated. Furthermore, they operate with the knowledge that the average Christian will not know how to engage. Frankly, the culture of modern evangelicalism is not conducive to apologetics. What we see today is that most evangelicals rely on emotional appeals and responses not on intellectual approaches and argumentation.

It is high time that Christianity take back intellectualism from the atheists and Scriptural arguments from the Christian cults.

Apologetics Isn’t Just For Debates

Apologetics sounds like a difficult topic, and in some ways, it sounds simple. Clearly, we can see that we draw our word apology from apologetics. However, are we understanding the word apology properly if we are drawing it from apologetics?

I have interacted with Christians that seem to think that apologetics means that we are to apologize for Christianity. I know that sounds like a joke, but I’m serious. To be certain, apologetics is not about making an apology for the places where Christianity has gotten it wrong. Apologetics is all about explaining to a dead world that Christianity has it right, period.

Therefore, it is imperative that we have a proper look at the word and the principle that results from it. At the basest definition apologetics means to give a formal defense of an opinion of conduct. Christian, or biblical apologetics can be defined as giving a reasoned defense for your beliefs.

Furthermore, this reasoned defense is not solely a spiritual exercise. We are not merely trusting that in some mystical way we receive the answers we need to confront errors. Instead we seek to prepare ourselves for those moments through intentional study of God’s Word. Moreover, we can actively prepare ourselves to practice apologetics by studying the beliefs of the enemies of the faith.

Sadly, as I previously mentioned, most of modern Christian culture has walked away from intellectual pursuits. They see apologetics as something only certain people do, and it isn’t for them. This is intellectual and spiritual laziness of the worst kind.

But How Do I Do It

Previously, I spoke about the failure of elders and pastors to properly prepare their flocks for the work of evangelism . Now, that failure does not dismiss the culpability on the part of the sheep. The same accusation can be leveled against elders and pastors when it comes to apologetics work. They just aren’t teaching their charges or leading from the front in this issue.

So, it comes as no surprise to me that there are many who are at a loss as to where to begin. Furthermore, with the advent of social media there is no shortage of experts sharing their views on what method or view to hold to. Does one follow Classical Apologetics? Or perhaps one should follow Evidential Apologetics? Maybe the better option is Presuppositional Apologetics? Or maybe Expository Apologetics? Which one do we use? Which one is best for you?

Any of the methodologies I mentioned are certainly options for the person who wants to practice apologetics. Furthermore, some methodologies are more suited to certain situations. And if those methodologies aren’t enough for you there are even more.

What place that I would suggest any person begin to look? That depends on who they will find themselves engaging with on a regular basis. Do you have professing Christian friends that you can tell aren’t genuinely saved? Evidentialism may work best for you. Furthermore, this often works with the Christian Cults as well. (As an aside one can study Biblical Apologetics to combat the cults as well.) Do you find yourself surrounded by atheists and agnostics on an ever-increasing basis? I would urge you to look at Presuppositionalism.

Each methodology has an application and it is imperative to remember that not one shoe fits all feet.

So What Method Do You Use?

I wish it was as simple as just saying I picked a single method and went with it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I had to learn apologetics on my own. Moreover, I had no idea what I was learning as I was learning it.

It simply came down to the truth that I was tired of being embarrassed when I was witnessing to people. Nominal progressive Christians were tying me in knots with their loose use of Scripture. Atheist were handing me my lunch on an intellectual level. Cultists were terrifying to me. As James White has said, “Most JWs know their interpretation of scripture better than most Christians know the true Word.” (paraphrase)

Therefore, I committed early in my walk, to learn to combat the lies I was hearing but struggling to defeat. I poured myself into word studies. I also poured myself into studying the Christian cults. Those two things worked to give me a passion for the cultists. Instead of hiding when the JWs knocked on my door I threw it wide open and invited them in. I came to a place where I would see Mormons and I would chase them down. My wife and children can attest to this, they’ve witnessed it numerous times.

However, I still struggled with atheists and agnostics. The more I witnessed to people, the more I encountered those claiming to be atheists.  I quickly discovered that Evidentialism was ineffective against them. Moreover, to some degree even Classical Apologetics could not budge them from their carefully cemented rocks.

It was after years of studying and searching I discovered Presuppositionalism. This form of apologetics fit into the encounters I was having. Furthermore, with slight modifications I could apply it to almost any encounter.

Modified Presuppositional Apologetics

I am sure this methodology isn’t unique to me. I didn’t learn it from anyone, I just started to develop it over time. However, before I get into what I call modified Presuppositionalism I suppose I should give at least a basic explanation of Presuppositional Apologetics. Mostly because all I can give is a basic explanation.

The modern roots of this methodology can be traced to Cornelius Van Til (Van Tilllian Presuppositionalism); Gordon Clark (Clarkian Presuppositionalism). There are slight variations in the two approaches. The basic format argues that without Christian thought and biblical application there can be no basis for rational thought.

Overall, the argumentation is superb and allows the Christian to take back rational thought from atheists. Moreover, it argues that even the God-denying atheist draws his ability to argue against God from God, the source of all knowledge. The argument also takes the unbeliever out of the position of judge and puts them in the proper spot as accused.

I call my methodology Modified Presuppositionalism because I also incorporate certain elements from Classical and Evidential Apologetics. Strict Presuppers would not be thrilled with my adopting of Evidentialism at any level. That’s fine, they are entitled to their opinions.

My reason for adopting certain aspects of other methods into my overall approach is because at times it is necessary. I will explain…

The Problems With Apologetics

No matter which apologetic method you adopt you will run into problems. It is inevitable. Evidentialism allows God to be put on trial and forces Him to present proof of Himself to inferior fallen beings. Classical Apologetics runs into some of the same problems. Yet, to be fair, I will also point out that Presuppositionalism has a weakness.

For all the beauty of the Presuppositional approach it has the ugly tendency to want to make the practitioner prideful. It almost becomes fun whittling away at your opponent’s worldview. So much so that you forget that the goal is to preach the Gospel to the glory of God.

Therefore, when using any apologetic method, you must ensure you have your eye on the Gospel. I know that seems simple enough to remember, but you would be surprised how often I have seen it forgotten.

You can be the best Evidentialist in the world and lead people into believing there is a God because of the evidence. However, even the demons believe and tremble at the name of Christ. Maybe you are the best Presupper around, able to whittle the atheist into the pile of teary wood chips. If you don’t preach Christ for the forgiveness of sins you have failed.

A Quick Word On Studying Other Religions

I cannot emphasize enough how important this has become to the Christian today. We may not ever be experts in world religions. However, we must understand that as we see more and more religious syncretism growing in the West, it is vitally important to know what other religions teach.

We must remember that the person is not the enemy, and that we do not battle against flesh and blood. Moreover, we must remember that the battle is spiritual and that the enemy is a great deceiver. Knowing the enemy’s weapons is a powerful tool.

It is also helpful to know what you believe and be prepared to defend that. Voddie Baucham, one of the wisest Christian men alive today, says that we do not need to defend those things we don’t believe. Know the enemy’s material better than they know yours, and don’t get led down rabbit trails. It distracts from the end goal.

In Conclusion

I am convinced the second most prevalent reason Christians don’t witness to others is lack of ability to engage detractors. This can be overcome with just a little willingness to not be content with not knowing what to say. The most loving thing you can do as believer is love your neighbor enough to know what they believe.

Therefore, engage with them. What you cannot glean from them in conversation learn on your own. Then prepare yourself to dismantle their beliefs in Christian love and charity, not in personal warfare. If we truly love neighbor as self, we will want the tools that are best suited for displaying that love.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

The Great Commission: A Command For All Disciples

Confusion Abounds

“…Sadly, this stems from a lack of understanding what commission truly means…”

The Great Commission may be the most abused title given to any teaching in Scripture. Sadly, this stems from a lack of understanding what commission truly means. The synonyms for commission are: command, directive, instruction, charge or contract. While these words are synonyms, they also communicate some very specific things about the Great Commission. However, in today’s modern church culture, the Great Commission has become less a command and more a suggestion.

One cannot not help but wonder how those who decided what the sub-headings should be; determined to use of the phrase the Great Commission. Furthermore, there is no way that those erudite scholars didn’t know the message they wanted to send. I believe, from years of observation, that the broader church has misunderstood the use of the phrase Great Commission. Subsequently, this misapprehension of the word has led to massive confusion.

Additionally, I believe that there is something powerfully profound in the Great Commission that isn’t given a passing thought. As I stated in a previous article (My Confession), the elders and pastors of most churches are failing in a key area. They don’t seem to recognize the need to instruct their flocks on the necessity of the Great Commission. Furthermore, this failure flows out of a lack of understanding what is at the root of the Great Commission.

The Power Behind The Great Commission

Throughout the Gospels Jesus is often approached and questioned by the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees. Perhaps the most poignant of these interactions takes place when Christ is approached and asked which is the greatest of commandments. The questioners are expecting Jesus to pick one of the ten. Moreover, they think they have Him in a carefully laid trap.

If Jesus answers incorrectly He proves Himself a false-teacher. Furthermore, any attempt He would make to explain an incorrect answer would drive His disciples away. However, Jesus is on to them. Christ can’t be that easily wrangled.

“…He has established the power that drives the Great Commission…”

Jesus answers them, but not just with a single response; He leads them into their own trap. “The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength.” He goes on, “And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.” But He isn’t done, “In these are all the law and the prophets.”

These enemies of Christ are caught. Jesus has them in their own trap. He has effectively proven that not one commandment is greater than the other. Furthermore, Jesus has established the continuation of the Eternal Moral Law of God for all believers in the New Testament. At the same time, He has banished all the legalistic law keeping of the Pharisees. He’s proven them inadequate to the challenge. He has established the power that drives the Great Commission.

Paul Exposits The Two Great Commandments

Many times, as I have read Paul’s words to the church in Philippi, I have been struck by a thought. Paul is reproving the people in Philippi and he says to them, “Do not look out for your own interest, but look out for the interest of others. Esteem them more highly than yourselves.”

What is Paul saying here? I am convinced that Paul is hearkening back to Jesus’ words to His would-be adversaries. “These two sum up all the law and the prophets.”

“Look,” Paul says, “The law commands that you love God above all else. Furthermore, God commands you to love others more than you love yourself.”

Isn’t that what it means to esteem others more than you esteem yourself? What is the word esteem? It means to revere or honor or regard. It can really be understood as placing in a position of great honor, as if on a pedestal. The natural bent of the human heart is to esteem self above even God, not to mention other people. Paul is correcting that in his epistle to the church in Philippi.

Yet, how do we understand what it means to esteem others more than ourselves? We must look at what God has taught us. And that is what Jesus was teaching in his summation of the law and the prophets. He was telling us that love for God and neighbor is our highest motivation for righteous conduct.

If we are loving God and neighbor properly, we will not murder others. We will not steal from others. Furthermore, all our actions towards others will be sacrificial and self-debasing. Isn’t the model that Christ laid out with His life? He allowed Himself to be humiliated throughout His entire life for our sakes.

The Audience And Intent Of The Great Commission

What was it that our Lord and Savior was saying to us in the Great Commission? Just what was He communicating to His disciples, then and now? Furthermore, how did those hearing His words understand them?

As we read Holy Writ, especially the New Testament, we are faced with two fundamental ways of understanding each passage. When can read them as descriptive or prescriptive. However, it isn’t up to us to decide which passage is read which way. The surrounding context of each passage determines our interpretation of the passage and how we understand it.

Subsequently, when we read, “That which you do go and do quickly” it may read like a command, but it isn’t for us. This interpretive motif is the very cornerstone of understanding Scripture. It is this building-block that prevents us from misusing passages and verses to suit our own ends. Additionally, if we labored to understand this correctly, we would not abuse many passages. Consider Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” and how terribly that verse is misused. It is this method that keeps us from misunderstanding the thief on the cross and making it a prescriptive text.

“…The intent of the Great Commission was to leave the audience with a command. Furthermore, that command was to be passed on from that original group of disciples to all the subsequent disciples to follow…”

And that is how we are to approach the Great Commission. Who is it being said to? What is being commanded? Does it apply to anyone other than the original audience?

The audience of the Great Commission were the gathered disciples. The intent of the Great Commission was to leave the audience with a command. Furthermore, that command was to be passed on from that original group of disciples to all the subsequent disciples to follow. Moreover, all disciples are to make more disciples and teach them all Christ commanded.

The Root of the Great Commission

It is imperative that we understand that the Great Commission is not devoid of a category. Christ is explicit in His words to the original audience. “Teach them all that I have commanded you.” Christ is pointing back at something here and we would be remiss if we didn’t look at it carefully.

All Christ’s earthly ministry was teaching His disciples over and over again. Additionally, He taught the same things in varied ways. How often do we read Christ saying some variation of “Do you not yet understand?” This is indicative of a certain righteous exasperation that they couldn’t get certain things through their thick skulls.

Furthermore, Christ had summed up, in a rather succinct way, the Eternal Moral Law of God . Jesus taught this constantly. He taught it in the Sermon on the mount. He taught it when He answered the question about the greatest of commandments. The core group of disciples that were constantly around Jesus knew what it was to love God and love others. There was no escaping it.

So, on that day, as He prepares to ascend to His rightful place beside His Father, Jesus leaves the disciples with one final summation of His entire earthly teaching. “Go into the whole world. Preach the Gospel to all people. Make disciples. Teach them all I have commanded you.”

The disciples got it right away. They knew this was a command. Furthermore, they knew that the command was built on the foundation of the two greatest commands. They knew that they were to instruct new believers in what it meant to love God and others. It was unavoidable. There was not a chance there would be any confusion.

The root of the Great Commission? The law and the prophets…

The Great Commission Embodies The Great Commandments

In several places we learn that we are known by our fruit. The Bible speaks of the fruit of salvation and the fruit of spirit and fruit in keeping with repentance. Fruit is a powerful analogy because it is readily understood by even the simplest of folks. Bad fruit is bad to eat. A tree with bad fruit needs to be destroyed. Ahhh! Yet, so does a tree that bears no fruit. And when Christ taught these things His audience understood.

Jesus wasn’t just leaving behind a suggestion with the Great Commission. He was commanding His disciples to bear fruit. His teaching was about heart change. The bitter rotten heart hates the law. Yet, the converted heart, loves the law of God and considers it like honey on the lips. The disciples knew this when Jesus commanded them to go into the whole world preaching the Gospel and making disciples.

There was no doubt that they knew this was an imperative. It was something they had to do. Moreover, they knew that to fail to keep this command was a great and bitter sin. It would demonstrate a lack of fruit at best, and at worst, rotten fruit.

The clearest and most poignant way for any follower of Christ to demonstrate that they love God and love others, is to obey the Great Commission. You cannot end run around this. There is no loop-hole clause that dismisses your culpability. Name one other command, embodied in love God, and love others, that you can break, and not be in sin.

I will wait…

The Conclusion Of The Matter

I know this seems heavy. It is incredibly uncomfortable even writing it out. Yet, it needs saying. Failing to obey the Great Commission is sin. Furthermore, it breaks all of the commandments at once.

“…The point I am trying to make is that each believer WILL engage in the making of disciples through the preaching of the Gospel in varied ways…”

Certainly, we are not all going to obey the commandment of the Great Commission in the same way. A mother with children may spend all of her Great Commission time preaching the Gospel to her children. A man with an unconverted spouse may invest the brunt of his energy in executing the Great Commission in the presence of that spouse. Some may fulfill it by going out into the world through foreign missions. Still others may be local missionaries in their own communities.

Some of the work of the Great Commission will take place through deeply personal relationships. Some of it may be through the advancement of the Gospel in a brief interaction with a stranger. The point I am trying to make is that each believer WILL engage in the making of disciples through the preaching of the Gospel in varied ways.

However, know this, if you are not actively obedient to the command of the Great Commission you are sinning against God and neighbor. In short, my conclusion is that the Great Commission is a summary of the two Great Commands. Again, which command can you disobey and still be displaying love for both God and neighbor…?

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd