Don’t Retreat, Engage!

While it might be the case that many of you work and live among non-believers, it is also true that Christians often look for ways to retreat into their holy huddle.

Instead of gathering together in a holy huddle, I believe we are supposed to interact with and engage non-believers. If we don’t, we can’t accomplish the Great Commission — to make disciples because we don’t know any non-believers. If we want to win non-believers to Christ, we have to know some non-believers.

The reason I bring this up is because I know it is easy for us as Christians to gather together in our holy huddle. That is fine for a time, but at some point we have to break the huddle and engage those around us with the gospel, especially knowing that Jesus could return at any point. 

Imagine throwing down a couple of hundred dollars for a ticket to a Cowboys game, fighting traffic all the way over to Arlington, and spending even more time finding a parking spot and even more money at the concession stand, only to see the Cowboys never break the huddle after fielding the first kickoff and having to turn the ball over to the other team because of delay of game penalties. Imagine that? Imagine seeing that? 

That is exactly what we do if we remain in our holy huddle. Sure it is safe in there, but if we never engage anyone with the gospel, all we are doing is turning things over to the other team. That’s not good because the other team isn’t just going to score a touchdown. The other team is scoring someone’s soul. Instead of remaining in a holy huddle, we need to engage those around us with the gospel.

In order to do that we have to know people who are non-believers. When I say know, I don’t mean know of, but actually know them — as in you have a relationship with them. If we are going to accomplish the Great Commission, we have to know non-believers. We have to interact with them on a regular basis. 

We have to be like the world, engaging them in relationship with the gospel, while at the same time we must be unlike the world, so that they can see what it would look like for them to live as a Christian. 

Use the relationships you have. Engage the people you know on a regular basis. Get to know non-believers and engage them with the gospel.

The Time is Unknown

I don’t know about you, but when I travel by air, I am always worried about the flight being on time. I am sure you all can relate. I am sure you all have a travel horror story where you sat in the airport not knowing when or if the flight was going to take off.

One of my more memorable was when I was returning from seminary in Kentucky. It was winter. It was cold. I had been there for two weeks. I was ready to come home, sleep in my own bed and see my family. It was Friday. The flight was packed. There wasn’t an open seat on plane. 

As we boarded, notifications started popping up on my phone about the weather coming. There was a thunderstorm on the way. It was headed directly for the airport. My hope, as well as the other passengers, and the pilots was that we could take off before the storm came through. We were all set to roll back from the gate when the news everyone dreaded came over the speaker: “Folks, this is your pilot speaking. We are going to have to hold tight until this storm rolls by. We hope it will only be a few minutes.” I know you have heard that message. It’s one none of us wants to hear when we just want to get home.

After a few minutes, the storm rolled through. But just as soon as that one was out of the area, another spun up. It continued like that for hours. No one, not even the pilots knew if we were going to take off that night. We all wanted to get in the air and get home. But we can only predict the weather and track it. We can’t control it.

Eventually we made it in the air and home, but it wasn’t until midnight that we took off and around 2 in the morning when I landed. That is not something I expected when I showed up for my flight that day. I didn’t know I was going to be delayed until late that night. As I was waiting to take off, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to leave. Thankfully we were, but everything was up in the air. It was a big unknown. 

Do you know what else is unknown?

Jesus’ return is unknown. The Bible teaches us that Jesus is the King of the World, not only the King but our Savior. We believe He is our only hope. The One who will set everything right in the world. 

We all know the world is broken. We all long, in one way or another, for something more, something better, a perfect world. For those of us who believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we all long for the day when Jesus will return and set things right. 

While we all long for the day when Jesus will return:

The Time of Jesus’ Return is Unknown

In Matthew 24, Jesus tells us just that:

““But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Mt 24:36)

The time of Jesus’ return is unknown to us and to Jesus while He was on earth. Jesus tells us He doesn’t know the time. 

That might seem a bit odd. Especially since Jesus is going to play a central role in that day. He is the One coming back. He is the One who will judge the nations. It might seem a bit odd that He doesn’t know, but that is how things have been arranged. In His humanity, Jesus does not know the day or the time of His return. Even if He wanted to, Jesus couldn’t tell His disciples when He was coming back because He didn’t know. Only the Father knew the date and time of His return. 

All those who attempt to date Jesus’ return are wrong. They have no idea when Jesus is going to return. Jesus Himself didn’t know when He walked the earth. If He didn’t know, no one else knows either. Not even that televangelist who is uber convinced they have discovered the date through some secretive code or a word from God Himself. No one knows the time of Jesus’ return.  

We know He is going to return, like I knew my flight would eventually take off back to DFW. But none of us know when. The Bible doesn’t tell us. Since the Bible doesn’t tell us, we shouldn’t bother speculating. Nor should we ignore the fact that Jesus will return one day, as many do. 

Since there is not a set definitive point in history when Jesus will return, many people believe they have time. Time to change the path on which they are on. Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven presents this idea loud and clear with the lyrics:

Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on
And it makes me wonder

Zeppelin pictured humanity coming together to create something beautiful, something wonderful, to make this world great — heaven. 

While they believed in a perfect world, they sought to find it in an imperfect way. 

No man can make this world heaven. We, in and of ourselves, can’t change the world. Only Jesus can. He will return one day. At a day and hour we do not know, which means we have no idea whether we have time to change our mind or not, to change the path on which we walk. We have no idea because we don’t know when Jesus will return. 

Where we go wrong is believing we have the time.When people say things like — I have time. That is really code for: I still have time to live how I want and do what I want. I still have time to live as the big “K” king of my life. 

But that is not true. We don’t know how much time we have, which means today is the day of salvation.

When will God deal with evil?

God has a plan for this world.

A plan that has existed before the foundation of the world. Before anything was created, God had a plan. God’s plan involves Him dealing with evil.

If you don’t believe God has a plan, look at His prophecies and promises throughout Scripture. Look and see how He has fulfilled them.

God has a plan. A plan He is bringing to fruition. A plan that will not be thwarted.

Hard to Believe

That might be hard to believe, because our best laid plans. They don’t always work out. If you are a parent, especially of young kids, you know this to be true. You might have an entire day planned out. You are going to get out of the house with the kids. Head to park. Wear them out a bit. Then run a few errands before stopping at the grocery store to pick up some food to cook that evening for your friends that are coming over.

You have full day but you have it all planned out. You are getting ready to go. Your kids are being quiet. You can’t believe they are being quiet and letting you get ready. Then you think, maybe they are being a little too quiet. You walk back to their room to check on them, and to your horror you find their new clothes you just dressed them in covered in paint. Then you see hand prints all over the wall.

Guess what you are doing that day? You aren’t going to park. You aren’t running errands. You might make it to the grocery store, but most likely you are ordering pizza for your friends that are coming over, if you don’t just throw your hands up and cancel your plans altogether.

Our best laid plans don’t always work out, but God’s do.

God is our Creator. He is the One who created you and I and the universe in which we live. He controls all things. He is the all-sovereign God. His plans don’t fail. He has a plan to deal with evil.

In the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13, Jesus tells us when He will deal with evil.

In the parable Jesus tells us a story about a Farmer. He sows wheat on his own land. But the farmer has an enemy who comes at night and plants weeds in his field.

The weeds that his enemy plants are what is known as Darnel. Darnel closely resembles wheat. At first, they look identical. You can’t really tell the difference until the wheat matures. Only then can you tell that the weeds weren’t wheat but weeds because there was no head — no fruit.

What we see then is that the bad crop grows alongside the good crop. As it grows their roots intertwine with one another. The weeds end up soaking up all the nutrients and moisture in the soil. It stunts the growth of the wheat so that it doesn’t produce as it would have if the darnel hadn’t been planted in the first place.

Once you are able to tell the field was infested with darnel, you couldn’t pull the weeds up because of the intertwined roots. If you did, you would end up pulling up the wheat crop, so the farmer tells his servants to allow the weeds to exist among the wheat until the harvest. At the harvest the darnel would be gathered out and burned while the wheat was put in the barn.

When Jesus returns, those who are evil will be gathered up and burned in the fire.

Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Mt 13:40–43)

Even though evil is allowed to continue in the world, judgment is coming.

When Jesus returns, all those who are not His disciples: All those who haven’t repented of their sin. Who don’t recognize He is the Messiah. That He is the One who provides them with salvation. All those who don’t call Him Lord will face judgment.

For now, Jesus allows His disciples to live in the world among those who are evil. Those who are evil do evil things. We have seen that on the news regarding Afghanistan. People are being oppressed, beaten, and even killed. 13 soldiers and over 160 civilians lost their life because evil people decided to set off a bomb. Evil exists in the world. We live among it every day.

But Jesus promises us that evil won’t continue forever. One day, He will deal with it. Those who are not in His kingdom will be judged and the world will be purged of evil. But that won’t happen now. It will only happen when Jesus returns.

The Lord’s Supper is a Family Meal

And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.” (Mk 14:13–16)

After Jesus and His Disciples came to the house where the Passover meal was prepared, they reclined at the table and began to eat.

We read this as if it is what was supposed to happen — Jesus gathering with His disciples to eat the Passover. But that is not typically what would take place. Typically the physical family would gather together. The eldest father would preside over the meal. But that is not what takes place here. Instead, Jesus gathers together with His disciples. In doing so, He and they understand that they are family. That Jesus is the head of the family.

In the Lord, as Christians, we enter into a family. A family with Jesus as our head, which is why we can call one another brother and sister. It is important to understand we are family because family watches out for and looks after one another. Family cares for one another. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to look out for and care for one another. Our relationships with one another should be deep and wide, not shallow. We should know how to serve one another, how to minister to one another. We shouldn’t have cursory relationships with those at our church. We are family. Family knows one another. Family cares for one another. The Lord’s Supper reveals and points to the fact that we are family.

As a family meal, the Lord’s Supper is reserved for those:

(1) Who are a part of the family.

When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we become a part of a family. A family of believers. We may be from different races, nationalities, backgrounds, and socioeconomic classes, but Jesus brings us all together as a family. It’s the family that is invited to this meal.

The Lord’s Supper is not for those who are unbelievers.

It is a family meal. If you don’t believe Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you are outside of the family and you shouldn’t partake of the Lord’s Supper when you go to church.

The Lord’s Supper still has significance to the unbeliever

With that being said, that doesn’t mean the Lord’s Supper doesn’t have any significant for for those who aren’t believers.

For the unbeliever, the Lord’s Supper points to the good news that Jesus can be your substitute — that His death can stand in the place of your death. It points to your access to the family. It’s through Jesus that we enter into the family of God. While Jesus’ family is exclusive — only believers are a part of it — it is inclusive — all those who repent of their sin and believe can enter into the family.

If you aren’t a believer, let the Lord’s Supper be a witness to you. Let it be a picture of the good news of Jesus to you.

Not only is the Lord’s Supper reserved for those who are members of the family, but it is also limited to those:

(2) Who are unified family members

In order to come to the table together and eat, we must be unified. We must be a cohesive family unit. We can’t be harboring sin, holding a grudge, or mad at another and still expect to sit down and eat with them. No, we must be unified with one another in order to eat.

Lastly, family meals are limited to those:

(3) Who aren’t harboring unrepentant sin.

If you are knowingly engaging in sinful activities and you refuse to repent of that sin, your relationship with the Father is hindered. Until you mend that relationship, you should not take the Lord’s Supper. For as Paul talks about in one of his letters to the Corinthians, you may be eating and drinking wrath on yourself because you are presuming on the grace of God.

Conclusion

The Lord’s Supper not only reminds us of Jesus’ sacrifice and future reign but it also reminds us that we need to deal with family relationships and unrepentant sin in our lives. The Lord’s Supper is a family meal. Are you a part of the family?

Avoid Deception – Read the Word Purposefully

The Galatians were deceived by the Judaizers. Instead of continuing to follow God’s Word, they allowed a group of people to convince them they needed to add something to God’s Word regarding salvation in order to experience salvation. The Judaizers told them salvation wasn’t found in Jesus alone. Rather it was found in Jesus plus works. In this instance, it was the work of circumcision.

Paul is shocked they would submit themselves to the law. He lets them know in his letter to them.

What contributed to their deception?

One reason the Galatians were deceived by the Judaizers was their inability to listen to the Law.

“I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?” (Ga 4:20–21)

What does it mean to “listen to the Law”? Why is it important we listen to the Law?

BDAG Defines it as:

to hear and understand a message, understand

Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 38

Listening to or hearing the Law implies more than hearing it read aloud or preached. It implies understanding the message the text is attempting to convey.

The Galatians Misunderstanding and Paul’s Clarification

The Galatians did not understand the message of the OT Law, namely, one cannot earn salvation through works. Over and over again the Law points to our inability to keep the Law to gain salvation. Incase the Galatians did not understand the laws application, Paul makes it clear in chapter 5:

“Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (Ga 5:2–4)

It is important we listen to the Law, it tells us we cannot keep it and we need a Savior, so that we are not “obligated to keep the whole law” and end up “severed from Christ”.

The Law cannot justify us. Only Christ can provide justification through His work on our behalf.

How can we be better listeners to the Law ourselves?

Work on being better Bible readers

(1) Association – Find a way to associate the text to an experience you have had in the past, or something you are going through right now.

(2) Pray for Understanding – Before you read, pray the Lord would open the text up to you.

(3) Pray the Text – After you read, pray through the text. Praying the text isn’t rocket science. Start with the first verse you read and pray whatever comes to mind. When you have milked that verse dry, move on to the next, and then the next, until you have prayed all the verses you read. If you want further ideas and reasons why praying the text is helpful, Donald Whitney has written an excellent book Praying the Bible, which I highly recommend.

(4) Meditate on the Text – If all you do is read a chapter, close your Bible, and go about your day, chances are you aren’t going to remember much of what you read, which means you probably aren’t going to apply much of what you have read to your life. In comes meditation. By meditation, I don’t mean sitting with your legs crossed, arms out, palms up, trying to clear your mind. I have in mind just the opposite. Instead of trying to clear your mind, you should fill your mind with the text. There are several ways to do that:

  • Think through the key words in the text.
  • Write out the text.
  • Journal the text.
  • Memorize a key verse(s).
  • Visualize the text by drawing it (probably more for you artsy types).
  • Think of how the text applies to your life, your family, or your community.
  • Formulate the main idea of the text. Think about what the text is telling you is true, and then ask what you should do, think, or believe based on that truth.
  • Ask yourself how the text points to Jesus.

By employing these tips, you should be able to read the Bible in a way that allows you to hear what God’s Word is saying.

Understand the purpose of the Law

The Law points to Jesus.

How does the Law point to Jesus?

  • The Law also shows us we cannot keep the Law – The continual sacrifices are meant to show us that we are incapable of keeping the Law. That in and of ourselves, we would remain under God’s judgment.
  • The Law shows us we need a substitute – We don’t atone (make right) for our own sin. In the OT Law an animal is sacrificed in our place. The sacrificial animal is meant to point to another sacrifice to come.
  • The Law points to Jesus through its ineffective nature – Sacrifices have to continually be made. The sacrifices are not sufficient to provide us with salvation from God’s wrath.

Conclusion

If we want to keep ourselves and others from being deceived by faith teachers, we must be students of the Word reading it for all it offers. We cannot pick and choose which verses to read, nor can we read it in isolation from the other texts in Scripture. Rather, we must read it in context and in a faithful manner.

Why Shouldn’t We Be a People Pleaser?

You might be thinking: “Why shouldn’t I seek to be a people pleaser, especially in this day and age? I could lose my job, my livelihood, my status. I could get canceled and everything I worked so hard for is gone.” So why?

Why Shouldn’t We Be a People Pleaser?

(1) Seeking the approval of man is a never-ending cycle.

You all know that trends, opinions, and ideas change, and they change often. What pleases someone one day isn’t necessarily what’s going to please them the next. Seeking the approval of man traps you in a never-ending cycle of always having to figure out what’s going to please someone and then convince them that you are worthy of their attention, praise, and affection. That never-ending cycle is a grind that will eventually beat you down, leaving you broken and depressed. I believe this is why so many celebrities end up abusing drugs or alcohol, or even committing suicide. The constant pressure of having to maintain a certain status is just too much.

(2) Seeking the approval of man means we’re going to have to continually change our message.

As you all know, times change, culture changes, and along with those things, what man approves of changes. If our only goal is to win man’s approval, our message is going to end up changing along with the times and culture. The liberal church is a good example. If you look back at their history, you would see that as the culture changed, their message has changed along with it. So much so that they are a mirror of the world instead of being a light to it.

God doesn’t call us to be a church with an ever-changing message. He doesn’t want us to be progressive. Instead, He wants us to remain faithful. In order to do that, our desire has to be to please Him instead of our fellow man.

(3) Seeking the approval of man means we will often be forced to act in ways that are contrary to God’s commands and the gospel.

Peter is a prime example. As soon as the circumcision party showed up in Antioch he withdrew from the Gentiles so that they wouldn’t think any less of him. Obviously, that doesn’t coincide with the gospel’s message that there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile. Or with God’s command to love others as ourselves. But Peter wasn’t concerned with that. He wasn’t concerned with following God’s commands or promoting gospel unity. Instead, he was concerned with pleasing the circumcision party.

If our only goal is to please man, then we are going to find ourselves acting like Peter. We are going to have to choose between following God and upholding gospel unity, and doing what will win us favor with others. That’s a problem. A big problem. Because God, His commands, and His gospel should be the only thing we care about promoting. He is our Creator, Sustainer, and Savior. Pleasing Him and doing what brings Him glory should be our only concern. But the only way we are going to do that is if we are Christ pleasers instead of people pleasers.

(4) Seeking the approval of man means we aren’t living in the freedom Jesus provides.

In Christ, we are freed from having to continually seek man’s approval. That’s because in Christ we have the only approval that matters — God’s approval. That approval will never change because it’s not dependent on our work. Instead, it’s dependent on Jesus’ work on our behalf.

When we realize that we are free in Christ, we will be free from the grind of having to please others. We won’t have to deal with the anxiety that’s caused by wondering if we have done enough. Nor will have to deal with the inner turmoil of whether or not we sold out to the culture. Instead, we will be able to live joyful lives, knowing that we have the only acceptance that matters — God’s.

God’s approval is the only approval that should matter. Instead of seeking the ever-changing approval of man, we need to rest in God’s unchanging approval that’s found in Christ alone.