Argentina 2012 Journal – May 26

The next chapter is John MacArthur’s “Evangelism in the Hands of Sinners: Lessons from the Book of Acts.” The main point is this: the danger the church faces is losing evangelistic fervor when it flirts with sin from within. You would think the danger comes from the outside, when there is constant pressure from the world to conform to its ways, and persecution when she doesn’t follow suit. However, this leads to a stronger faith in the people of God, and the church grows in its witness of the power of God to change hearts. In response, Satan goes after the hearts of those in the community of faith and lead them to pursue worldly things, thus becoming an inward focus that loses sight of pointing those outside to Him upward. The fight then becomes as much a fight for holiness as it is of seeking the lost and calling them to Christ. Over the past few years, I can testify that when sin has a hold on your life, and you do not fight the battle against sin, you will not be an effective witness, or even desire to witness of the Savior to others. Hearing of those who once had a zeal to introduce others to Christ now leave the faith demonstrates the validity of this truth. It becomes a battle lost over who will have dominance over their life: them or Christ. When Christ comes up against a sin that is coddled within the heart, that’s where the call for purity is most relevant.

Every trip is always a reminder of how important pursuing purity in your life really is. If there is secret sin that is being carried, and not just your luggage, you walk into dangerous territory. You spend a vast amount of time with others that you only see once or twice a week and speak maybe for a few minutes out of one whole week. This trip does not allow for that. There is continual down-time, as well as times of busyness that can wear you out and bring your guard. If you are not constantly depending on God to keep you from becoming prideful or selfish, it can directly and immediately affect others. This can become a distraction in relation to accomplishing the goals set for the trip, and hinder relationships with those we spend time with in Argentina. The great realization is, though it looks less obvious when here at home, it’s just as important, if not more, to maintain a purity in our lives that increases our influence to this culture that hypocrisy is not an essential aspect of man. When we are redeemed by Christ, we have been what is necessary to escape every temptation to sin and not drag Christ’s name through the mud. These were lessons the apostles and the church at large learned early on, and continue to be lessons the church today needs to hear again and again.

Moving to section 2, “Evangelism from the Pulpit,” we get a picture of what it means to be a biblical preacher: one who calls many to come to faith in Christ by way of the Gospel message. Rick Holland, in his chapter, “Sunday Morning: Evangelism’s Role Within the Service,” argues for evangelism to be a central aspect of a pastor’s sermon. Whatever text is being preached, it isn’t a matter of trying to fit Jesus into everything, but common themes in Scripture always lends itself to be a call to faith and repentance. Holland gets into territory that is not immediately relevant to laymen, but it is helpful to see that whenever a sermon is preached, if it is a biblical message, a message devoted to expositing a passage of Scripture, then not only will a theme of the Bible come up, but it can also be a transition for a Christian to speak Gospel truth to a non-Christian who heard the same message.

Spending a couple pages on 2 Corinthians 5:20-21, Pastor Holland draws out the truth that every minister of the Gospel, as well as every Christian, is an ambassador for Christ, and is called to represent the King with His message of reconciliation. The word that changes the way we view being a representative is “implore.” It carries in its range of meaning the idea of pleading, or begging, those who are headed to hell to abandon their destructive course and turn towards Christ. This is what refreshes believers: to know that there are still lost people out there, and that we are under teaching that will not back down from calling people to leave their life of sin and embrace Jesus as their all. To close this reflection, Holland writes: “May it never be said or even perceived that we are too proud to beg people to approach the cross and to have their sins forgiven” (p.114).

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Argentina 2012 Journal – May 19

Up next is Rick Holland’s chapter, “Christ, the Savior: Evangelism as a Person, Not a Plan.” We all know we’ve done this before. If we’ve ever had an opportunity to share the Gospel with someone, typically you overcome your fear of introducing yourself, but then try to find the words necessary to get the Gospel to that person. You either have a set number of passages you go to, or you try to boil down the Gospel message in four or five points. Once you go through that, you consider the work done, but realize the person you’re speaking with has a very disinterested look on his face. They find everything else around you interesting to look at, except you, of course. Could it be they really do not want to bow the knee to Christ? It’s possible. Could it also be possible that it shows you’re trying to get through a rehearsed presentation that shows it’s a rehearsed presentation? That’s possible as well.

Reading through this chapter came like a slap to my face when I initially read it. It’s one of those chapters where after reading it, you can’t look at something the same way again. You think, “I can’t believe I ever thought that way before. How did I miss that?” Pastor Holland did that to me in this chapter. His warning to all believers is to make sure our focus in evangelizing unbelievers is Jesus Christ Himself, and not our presentation of the Gospel. To make sure there’s no mistaking it, yes it’s helpful to have verses memorized in order to be able to witness to anyone as there’s opportunity (look at a couple of my older posts to see what I wrote about that). However, what must be a chief motivation in our evangelism is bringing a sinner to Jesus Christ by way of introduction. This person must see that we are trying to get them to know Christ, not adopt our beliefs. If Christ has saved us and changed us, we should be that much more eager to draw others’ attention to the One who radically changed us.

To quote Holland, “If you are not proclaiming the beauty of Christ in your gospel presentation you are missing the point of the gospel. The gospel is about a person and a relationship with that person. And rejecting the gospel is rejecting a person (Matt. 7:21-23)” (p.74).

MacArthur’s chapter, “Giving Up to Gain: All Things to All People,” is still one of the most challenging chapters I have ever read. It is an exposition of 1 Corinthians 9, but more of an exposition of Paul’s heart in ministry to become a slave to all that he might win some to Christ. Misused as a prooftext for unrighteous living, 1 Corinthians 9 (specifically, verses 19-22) is actually a call to limitation of our freedoms for the sake of loving unbelievers around us. Whatever liberties we have now that we are in Christ, for the sake of drawing many to Christ, we give those up that we may not unnecessarily offend. The offense of the Gospel cannot be avoided, but offense outside of the Gospel we must consciously work hard against. The example that Paul left for us to emulate is a great example, and one worth pursuing the rest of your life. This was why it was one of the most challenging. To constantly think through how to avoid unnecessarily offending others can seem like people-pleasing, but for Paul, it was to be people-loving.

These chapters both reminded me of our goal in loving those outside of Christ currently, and being strategic in our love for them. In going to Argentina, I know one way of showing this type of love is graciously thanking anyone who offers us food, and enjoying it as best we can. This happens within the church, but sometimes it happens when we’re invited in the homes of people in the neighborhood when we’re offered mate (a favorite tea of the Tucumanos). If it’s given to everyone inside the home, the straw is used by everyone. To us Westerners, it may make us uneasy, but we are not in our homes, we’re in theirs, and to take a sip of their mate is a show of respect and honor to the host who invited us in. We hope to be pleasant during our time there, so that it would lead to us introducing the Lord and Savior of men and women, Jesus Christ. Pray that we would be fervent in thinking through biblical principles as we prepare to fly there and show Christian love not only to our brothers and sisters, but to dying souls, that they may be brought within the saving love of our God.

Argentina 2012 Journal – May 5

Chapter 3 is entitled, “The Common Case of Unbelief: A Biblical Perspective on Unbelievers” by Jonathan Rourke. The goal in this chapter is to have a better understanding of unbelief, a stance we all naturally held, and, by God’s grace, have left. This is to not only remind us of where we came from, but where many still are in, so that we wouldn’t be smug in our evangelism, but compassionate, calling them to leave their life of sin and rebellion. To quote Rourke, “those outside of Christ have a common case of unbelief marked by a common deception, a common destiny, and a common deliverer” (p.32). The natural man is deceived by Satan regularly, bearing the fruit of believing a lie and rejecting the truth that they know of God. All who do not believe in God is clearly destined for hell, of which only those in Christ have the means of escape. Everyone in this world has a common deliverer found in Christ, and so there isn’t a different savior for those trapped in different religions. This is a helpful chapter in reminding me that I do not need to be an expert in knowing all the arguments for God’s existence to make headway with a person. Though it may be useful, the truth of the situation makes me aware that the greatest need a person has is found in the Person of Christ. Knowing Him helps us point others towards Him.

Chapter 4 may be one of my favorite chapters of the book. “The Word of Truth in a World of Error: The Fundamentals of Practical Apologetics” by Nathan Busenitz is one of those chapters that packs a lot in such a small space. In a book on evangelism, you would think apologetics would not be important enough to have its own chapter. However, as is set forth by Busenitz, apologetics is a means to an end in relation to evangelism. The focus of apologetics should always be to win the person, not the argument. Giving nine fundamental principles, Busenitz writes a helpful primer on how to defend the faith appropriately. This came across as very disarming, and inviting the Christian to see apologetics not as a fun project only philosophers care about, but a tool that can be used by anyone who lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If you’re into apologetics, or know of the ministry of John MacArthur, the approach that is advanced is a presuppositional defense of the faith. [Funnily enough, I could not find a single book advancing presuppositional apologetics translated into Spanish. What is helpful to note is that this book has been translated into Spanish, so at least there’s a start.]

One principle I think is hardest to remember is “The Assumption: Unbelievers Already Know God Exists.” If you’ve read some works on apologetics, this is not a common assumption. Typically, the approach this is recommended by some of the leading apologists today is that of establishing the ability of gaining knowledge, then proofs for God’s existence, and finally to ruling out the other monotheistic religions towards Christian theism. Yet all of this assumes the ability of the unbeliever to rationally conclude that God exists, when all along they already know that, but deny its truth. It sounds counterintuitive, but it is a consistent application of the teaching of Scripture (Romans 1 is the definitive chapter on this).

There’s more that could be said on this chapter (and if you know me, you know I could go on…and on…), but suffice it to say that this was a helpful reminder that I shouldn’t be bogged down on the philosophical terms that people like to employ to try to weasel out of hearing the clear Word of God. If anyone enjoys what they read here, there is an article similar to this chapter by Michael Kruger (‘The Sufficiency of Scripture in Apologetics’). Again, our goal is to bring the good news of what Jesus accomplished on the cross to bear on the broken lives of those around us. This is to be done not only in Argentina, but in the areas that we live and work and serve. Pray that our team can move towards this end not only for this trip, but for the rest of our lives.

Argentina 2012 Journal – April 28

Today was the first day our team gathered together for our first meeting in preparation for our trip this coming July (a little over two months!). It was exciting to see everyone together in the same room solely for the purpose of this trip. Pastor Patrick led the meeting, even though he won’t be able to make the trip. However, Eugene is leading this time around, and Naomi and myself are the only returners. That means eight others (including Andrea!) are first-timers.

One of the things I immediately noticed off the bat was that almost everyone were either in the singles affinity group or GraceLife. Even though I am one of the younger ones on the team, almost everyone has practically graduated college and have been involved in our church for many years. This is a good thing, knowing that what may come from growing in Christ longer can also mean being teachable and not impulsive (I could say that about a lot of the collegians at our church, but that isn’t the norm for collegians in general). I consider it a joy and a privilege to be able to work with these brothers and sisters in being witnesses of Christ and servants of others who share a common faith.

Logistically, we seem to have a good start. A lot of things sound very familiar for what we’ll be doing there (doing an evangelism campaign with night programs involving a skit, testimony, and a sharing of the Gospel). Our preparation is a little different this time around, reading Evangelism by John MacArthur & staff + Today’s Gospel by Walt Chantry, as well as fundraising, which will be primarily done through the month of June, so less time to raise what we each need to raise.

Already the team looks like we can mesh well together. I personally know everyone on the team, so no need for personal introductions. However, the great thing about team meetings is the natural environment created in building team unity, which is always stressed as a vital element of representing Christ well in a missions trip. We never want to hurt another or be selfish towards one another, and I’m confident that no one desires to be that way. All of them are active members at our church, and strive to grow in their love for Christ and His bride.

Reading the first couple chapters of Evangelism was refreshing to look at again, especially given my underlining/notes when I read this last year. The first chapter is ‘Theology of Sleep: Evangelism According to Jesus’ by John MacArthur, where he covers the parable of the soils (Mark 4:3-8) and its importance in understanding our role as evangelists. The parable speaks of four soils, only one of which is called ‘good.’ The rest show no persevering change in the hearts of sinners, giving us a better glimpse of what we see when people respond negatively to the hearing of the Gospel.

This illustration [of the farmer and the four soils] is a paradigmatic explanation of what evangelism should look like. It is designed to answer a basic question that all evangelists eventually ask: why do some people respond to the gospel while others do not? (p. 5)

I know this may be a question that will come to mind while we’re in Tucuman, and I would never want to allow what I perceive from my vantage point to dominate the way God sees things. We must not see ourselves as agents of change apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, who is the one credited with changing the heart of a man or woman. How we dress or how we speak is not how God saves. He saves by way of the Gospel, and our responsibility is to be faithful to the message, and entrust God with the results, like how a farmer sows the seed, regardless of what he’s wearing, and yet is not the one who causes the growth. Knowing this, we can sleep and rest in God being sovereign over His creation, yet being strategic, humble, obedient, and confident witness of Christ to a lost and dying world, entrusting whomever we impart this Gospel to, God will do His work (as He has promised).

Jesse Johnson wrote the second chapter, ‘God’s Global Goal: The Power of the Great Commission,’ where he lays out what Scripture says is God’s heart and focus: the saving of lost souls. This goes as far back as Genesis 3, where God promises there to be a seed from Eve who will redeem a people for Himself, yet accomplishes it in different ways. Throughout the Old Testament, God calls for the people of Israel to be keepers of the Torah, a light to the world, in order to draw Gentiles in. However, post-New Testament, with the rising of Jesus from the dead, He now has given us a command, by His authority, to make disciples, which requires us to know the message that leads one from being a hater of God to being a true lover of God, baptizing and teaching them what Christ taught, all over the world. Before, believers would live to bring the nations in, and we are now sent out to be a group of worldwide testifiers of God’s grace, filled with believers who are lovers of Christ.

We are all called to be witnesses of Christ to as many people as we can, and to also live lives that do not do damage to the Gospel. I can easily think of moments where I sure lost some credibility with friends because of my sinful heart. My witness diminished at times when my heart was not treating Christ as holy. This chapter reminds me that God has always been for the saving of people from every tribe and people and tongue and nation, and we must always be as well, if we are to be imitators of God and walk in a manner consistent with the message we proclaim.

I pray and hope that our team can be bold witnesses of your Gospel truth, and that by it, many would be saved on this trip. Help us to be more aligned with Your Word in thought, deed and speech, Lord. Amen.

Argentina Missions Trip 2012

Hello world! It’s that time again where I begin to go through missions training with a group of members from Lighthouse Bible Church (lighthousebc.com) to travel south to Tucuman, Argentina to be faithful to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). More will be forthcoming in the next few months, but suffice it to say I am very thrilled to be working with my church in being used by God in a very specific way. I will try to update this blog (which happens to be one of our assignments) with what we’ve been learning during this time, and how we can be an encouragement to anyone who comes across this blog. I have some projects in the works related to this trip that I think will be helpful for anyone considering doing missions by way of the local church in Spanish-speaking communities. I hope and pray that this will be a series of posts that honors God and serves you. =)