June 2011

Great Commission leadership

June 20 2011 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor/President

Why did Jesus come to this earth? He did not leave this question unanswered. In Luke 19:10 he said, “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” His purpose was simple: provide the way of salvation to redeem lost mankind. As Paul discipled young Timothy, he recognized Jesus’ purpose when he said, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Tim. 1:15).

We preach that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Jesus said that about Himself in John 14:6. Baptists believe it to be true. But do our lives demonstrate the urgency of telling the world about Him? At least 3,800 people groups in the world have not yet heard His name. They do not know that the grace of God has come to man in the person of Jesus Christ.

If we are completely convinced of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will passionately accept our assignment to proclaim His gospel. Did Jesus leave us with a more primary responsibility? Undeniably, the last command Jesus left His followers is still in force. We can read it in Acts 1:8 or Matthew 28:18-20. It is simple and clear.

God has given us an assignment. We call it the Great Commission. It is not a shelf piece to admire and discuss. It is an assignment. We like to make it merely a topic of conversation. We get together every Lord’s Day to talk a little bit about the Great Commission and a whole lot about ourselves.

Are we called to oil the machinery of our local churches just enough to barely keep our doors open so we will have a place to go on Sunday? Is our primary task to maintain the “traditions of our elders” without filling the baptistry? Are we satisfied with merely serving as chaplains to one another? Where are the changed lives? Where are the newly redeemed believers?

Baptists like to talk about being “mission-minded” or “missional.” But, how much of that talk is being translated into planting new churches, increasing our mission dollars or sending more missionaries to the ends of the earth? How much of our talk is fleshed out through volunteers getting out of our comfortable pews to travel overseas?

Southern Baptists should not be satisfied until the God of heaven sees His children passionately proclaiming His Son within our community and to the ends of the earth. We cannot be content to use our resources to improve our standard of living while knowing that billions will spend eternity in hell because they never heard the name of Jesus.  

Try this one Sunday in your church. Measure the conversation in your Sunday School/Bible Study group or worship service. How much of it is about “us,” and how much of it is about our real purpose as believers? Do we pray for each other to feel better or are we calling on our merciful God to change the hearts of lost people? Are we discussing how we can live “happily” or are we asking how we can live more sacrificially in order to proclaim the Savior to the world? Is our discussion centered on finding ways to remove uncomfortable roadblocks in our lives or searching for ways to abandon self-satisfaction? Where is the gospel in all of our talk?

Let’s put our assignment in perspective. We don’t exist for the sake of building institutions, whether they be denominations, seminaries, colleges or newspapers like this one. We exist for the glory of God and for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ. Our calling is not to prop up organizations or keep machinery oiled. It is to proclaim salvation through Jesus Christ alone to a world who does not know His love and grace.  

God gets glory when the people of the world learn of His great love for them. He is glorified when lost mankind discovers that God’s love is not simply a feeling, but a sacrificial act of His mercy and grace toward all rebellious people of the world.

Of the three primary institutional structures within a society, government, business and church, only one of those is equipped to deal with the problem of sin. The world has many problems — war, poverty, hatred, greed, sickness — all of which have their roots in the universal problem of sin.

Governments throw money at problems. It does not work. Governments attempt to control the sin problem through legal enforcement. While we respect the value of law enforcement and recognize its place in social order, it does not deal with the root problem of sin.

Business hopes that producing the right products and creating jobs will lift societies and individuals above the consequences of sin. New inventions have not eliminated poverty. The development of more weapons has not eliminated war. Sickness and disease are still with us in spite of phenomenal medical advancements in the world of research. The wealth accumulated by legitimate, successful businesses has not addressed the problem because business is not equipped to handle the problem of sin.  

But, God has given the world the gift of the New Testament church. He has given Jesus to the church as our savior, redeemer and head. Jesus is the answer to the sin problem. His sacrificial death on the cross for the sin of man addresses the problems faced by every society and every individual in the world. God calls us to abandon the misguided priority of personal comfort. Comfort is a safe place. It is a place of pleasure. But it is not where God is working. Baptists must be alert to the tragic danger of comfort. It is destructively self-perpetuating. It is the place of no progress. Ultimately, it is the place of utter failure. If this is where we are, we need a strategy to climb out of that pit.

We are called to abandon the subjective feelings of comfort, not the objective standards of biblical truth. Are we deceiving ourselves by believing the work of the Great Commission will be done without serious obedience? We may be drowning in a sea of subjectivity, with little objective commitment to obeying Jesus’ command to take the gospel to every living creature.

The Great Commission is never accomplished accidentally. We will never wake up one day and discover that we have unintentionally proclaimed the gospel to the world. As Southern Baptists and North Carolina Baptists develop strategies to reach the nations, every local church needs to do the same. After all, it is the local church’s assignment.

David Platt said, “There is not one verse in the Bible where the gospel moves forward without a person.” God uses us! We are His plan to proclaim His salvation to every living creature. How will they know if we do not tell them?

Whether or not we agree with last year’s Great Commission Resurgence report, we are all confronted with the assignment Jesus left in our trust 2,000 years ago. We have not finished the work He gave us. There is still much to do, and it will not get done by endless discussion.

I challenge fellow Southern Baptists to be fully committed to excellence in the matter of equipping each other to fulfill the Great Commission and in the matter of intentionally doing whatever it takes to get the job done. We hold those around us to high standards. We want our doctors to be well trained and fully knowledgeable on matters of health. We expect the cook at the restaurant to prepare tasty food, while maintaining the highest standards of health and cleanliness. When we fly, we want to be confident that the pilot of the aircraft is trained for every potential scenario. If we hold others to high standards, why not hold ourselves to high standards? After all, the work we are doing has eternal consequences.

As Christians, we are carriers of the light. We are invaders of the darkness. We are proclaimers of the truth. We are liberators of the captive. We are the deliverers of the living water. We are announcers of the Good News. Individually, we can do much. But together we are unstoppable.

The Biblical Recorder is here to communicate to N.C. Baptists about the biblical assignment that is ours. Our churches need unity of purpose and a strong partnership in sharing the gospel. The Biblical Recorder has this as our goal. Our job is to communicate. The more we communicate, the better Baptists can cooperate and finish the job.

The Cooperative Program (CP), our 86-year-old system of supporting missions and theological education, is the envy of many denominations. But Southern Baptists don’t seem to really appreciate its value. It is our best financial strategy for fulfilling the Great Commission. Maybe we don’t get it.

Quincy Jones, a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and North American Mission Board church planter, spoke to the convention messengers in Phoenix, declaring, “I get it!” He said, “My wife and I grew up in an independent church environment, where we did not understand the CP. Now we understand, and we get it!” North Carolina Baptists, do we get it?

Frank Page, CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, has challenged us to increase our giving to missions through the CP. “Our Cooperative Program ministries have decreased every year for many years. We challenge you; we encourage you to raise your Cooperative Program support,” Page said.

He pointed out that if every church increased our giving 1 percent, there would be $100 million dollars more each year to spread the gospel through our mission agencies. That would translate into more church plants, more missionaries and more people groups reached with the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. Let’s “get it!”

We can’t afford to just say we get it. Let’s prove by our giving that we are committed to the Great Commission and we get it.
6/20/2011 7:03:00 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor/President | with 0 comments

How can we bring glory to God?

June 6 2011 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

How do we glorify God? Are there some specific actions or attitudes which bring Him glory? Is glorifying God limited to the actions of individuals or is this something a church, ministry or denomination can do? Since one of my three main goals for the Biblical Recorder is to glorify God, it will be helpful to initiate some discussion on the subject.

Most students of the Bible are familiar with the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It simply asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The response is equally simple, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” While Baptists are not accustomed to the regular recitation of the catechism, we should not ignore the priority of glorifying God.

The Holman Bible Dictionary defines “glory” as “The weighty importance and shining majesty which accompany God’s presence. The basic meaning of the Hebrew word kabod is heavy in weight... This is not so much something someone bestows on another as a quality of importance which a person, group or nation has and which another recognizes.”

The New Testament word for glory is doxa. This Greek word expresses a kind of glory that is exclusively reserved for God. Since there is no one or no thing comparable to Him, He alone is worthy of glory. To ascribe glory and honor to God is to recognize the superior quality of His importance. Giving Him glory is not contributing something to Him. It is recognizing what already exists and acting in ways which demonstrate our awareness of His uniqueness. He is in a category occupied by no other.

So, how do we go about ascribing glory and honor to Him? The most common answer is in the verbal expressions of worship. To give glory to God is to offer praise, worship and rightful recognition of God’s place in creation, in history and in the personal activity of the individual. Christians do this powerfully through music — all kinds of music. Expressions of worship through music comes in many languages and more styles than there is room to mention. If the text of the music accurately describes the God of the Bible, and it is presented with a pure heart, He is glorified.

Have you noticed that many religions have no music?

There is no song, because they have no god who is worthy of worship. Their god is a dead idol or hollow list of rules. If all is in vain, there is no song.

We sing because of the joy we experience from our living God. We sing because we have seen His mercy and received His grace.

Another way we glorify God is through prayers of repentance. The act of repentance gives God glory because the humble sinner is acknowledging that God is right and the sinner is wrong. God is glorified by our recognition that He is absolutely correct. He is perfectly truthful. When confronted with His holy nature, we must be like Isaiah. He heard the seraphim worshiping God, saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3). His response to God’s glory was repentance. “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). That is how to glorify God!

Repentance puts us in our place. Even though we have trusted Christ as our Savior, believers are not immune to the destructive elevation of self which pride produces. Pride contaminates worship, robbing God of His glory, while claiming glory for ourselves.

In the first chapter of the letter to the Romans, Paul described people who intellectually know who God is, but refuse to acknowledge His supreme nature. In verse 22 he says of such people, “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” You can read the consequences of their action. God “gave them up.” He let them follow their dead end road so their misplaced worship would become obvious. This kind of intellectual arrogance is all around us in North Carolina, America and the world. In our state there are 5.6 million people who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Where can they go to see the glory of God?

We cannot fight intellectual pride. But, we can proclaim the gospel which sets people free from the bondage of self-worship. Only through the gospel is misplaced glory corrected by true worship. The witness of a faithful Christian glorifies God. Jesus instructed His disciples, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). There you have it! Live in such a way that causes others to glorify God. Those in your sphere of influence look at the way you live. They recognize that it is impossible for you to live this way without some kind of outside help. God is glorified as they see Him working in your life.

The same process can be applied to a church or a ministry. Does the non-Christian world around your church glorify God as they see the awesome things He is doing in your church family? Are they seeing things that cannot be explained by human effort? Does the genuine expression of our faith whet the spiritual appetite of those around us? Lostness is overwhelming in North Carolina.

Never in history has there been more unreached, unbelieving people in our state. What an opportunity to glorify God! What glorifies God? A complete list is much too long to cover here, but I want to suggest a few more for your consideration.
  • God loves His word, so when His word is held high, internalized in the believer and obeyed deliberately, God gets glory.  
  • God is glorified when His people acknowledge Him as Father and grow in the intimacy that characterizes a healthy father-child relationship.  
  • God is glorified when His Holy Spirit indwells His children so strongly that His power is displayed in ways that cannot be attributed to human ability.  
  • God is glorified when His Son is received and subsequently proclaimed as the Messiah who died for sinners, was buried and arose from the grave.  
  • God is glorified when believers acknowledge His ownership of our lives. “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
  • God is glorified when the resources of His children are wisely invested in the priority of building His Kingdom through the local church.
I would like to hear your additions to this list. The Biblical Recorder staff welcomes your feedback (editor@biblicalrecorder.org). We want to partner with North Carolina Baptists to glorify God. We want to be an instrument of encouragement, grace and truth to you and your church.

“Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord; Nor are there any works like Your works. All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, And shall glorify Your name. For You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God.”  — Psalm 86:8-10
6/6/2011 9:06:00 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments