One month from today I will depart for a two-week teaching assignment with one of our Live Global partner schools in south Asia. I have been asked to teach a course on NT Theology for students at this fully-accredited college. Previously I have been able to teach a few courses over Zoom, but this will be my first trip in person to this location.
Please pray for my preparation as I finalize material for the course over the next few weeks. Pray for Brandi and the kids who will continue with their (rather busy) routine of school, work, activities, and life in general. Pray for the financial needs regarding the trip to be met. Those funds break down like this:
If you are willing and able to give, you can do so online through our ABWE giving page. You can also give via cash or check through our home church or to me directly and we will ensure it gets to the correct accounts. If you give, please let us know so that I can track our progress. Contact me with any questions and I’ll be glad to help.
Our children are counting the days until Christmas, noticing every time the delivery truck drops off another Amazon package and asking questions about the contents of each box. Our answer is always the same: wait. Waiting is synonymous with December.
And waiting is synonymous with the Christian life. Brandi and I find ourselves waiting for answers to many questions as well. Not as much about what will be under the tree but about what our lives will look like in the months and years to come. We want clarity, but we must wait.
It seemed appropriate then to examine what the Scriptures say about waiting. So that’s what I’ve attempted to do here. I begin with a familiar line from Isaiah and give attention its implications.
Pray for us. We know many of you do. Thank you. As you receive this, know that we have prayed for you also.
Millions of people celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday last week, or at least, they think they did. The nature of thanksgiving demands an intentional act. It is impossible to give thanks accidentally. Simply gathering around an elaborate dinner table with extended family members is not itself an act of thanksgiving. If that’s all that took place, what was really celebrated other than a traditional meal?
There is no such thing as arbitrary thankfulness. If a person truly celebrated thanksgiving, he would be able to give specific answers to questions like:
To whom are you thankful?
For what are you thankful?
Why are you thankful?
How are you expressing your thankfulness?
Gratitude is much more than an attitude. It is an activity. It certainly has similarities to contentedness, which is a mindset. A content person takes comfort in the knowledge that he is satisfied in his circumstances. Thanksgiving begins with a mindset of contentedness but then acts on such knowledge. Contentedness says, “I know I am satisfied, therefore I am at rest.” Thankfulness says, “I know someone has been good to me, therefore I will express gratitude to them.”
The New Testament letter of Paul to the Colossians makes clear that thanksgiving is based on knowledge. No one can truly celebrate thanksgiving ignorantly. It requires knowledge to be able to answer questions like those listed above. Thanksgiving and knowledge are necessarily connected. Paul shows the Colossians (and us) how this is the case.
He begins by telling them, “We always thank God . . . when we pray for you” (1:3). He expresses thanks to God on their behalf because of what he knew about them. Specifically, he (and Timothy, 1:1) had heard of their faith in Christ, their love for the saints, and their hope of heaven (1:4-5). The Colossian believers had heard of this hope in the gospel, which had come to them and been increasing in them “since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth” (1:5-6). They had “learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant” (1:7), and Paul says that Epaphras had “made known to us your love in the Spirit” (1:8).
In summary, Paul and Timothy thank God for the Colossians because they had gained knowledge that the saints there had gained knowledge of the gospel. They are thankful for what they know, and what they know is that the Colossians have knowledge of the gospel. They heard evidences of the Colossians’ salvation (namely faith, love, and hope), therefore they knew that the people had heard and received the gospel. The primary verbs in this section are repetitive, synonymous, and structurally arranged.
We heard (v. 4)
You have heard (v. 5)
You heard and understood (v. 6)
You learned (v. 7)
He made known to us (v. 8)
In addition to thanking God for what he knows about the Colossians (which is that they now have knowledge of the gospel), Paul also makes petitions to God on their behalf. These requests come in two categories.
First, he asks “that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding . . . bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (1:9-10). He follows up his thankfulness for their knowledge by asking for more knowledge for them. He wants them to know God and his will. He expects that they will increase in their understanding of who God is and what he is doing.
Second, he asks that they “be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father” (1:11-12). That is to say, he adds to his request for their increased knowledge by asking that their knowledge would make them thankful to God, even as they patiently and joyfully endure hardship for the sake of his name. Like contentedness, thankfulness is not circumstantial. With the kind of knowledge for which Paul prays, they could be thankful even in suffering.
For Paul, suffering was not a foreign concept. He wrote to these saints while imprisoned (4:18), yet he could say to them, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (1:24). He did not hide his hardships, saying rather, “I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you” (2:1). The stewardship Paul had received from God for them was “to make the word of God fully known” (1:25). God had revealed it to the saints, choosing to make known among them the greatness of “the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:26-27). Therefore, Paul toiled to proclaim Christ, “struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (1:28-29).
Paul’s work was to make Christ and his word fully known. It was a difficult work. Yet he persevered in it for the sake of the Colossians, “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:2-3).
Previously he had prayed that they would be filled with the knowledge of God. Now he says he is laboring through difficulty to make Christ known to them for their encouragement. Apparently Paul understood that God would answer his prayer, at least in part, as he fulfilled his stewardship to proclaim Christ to them.
And what should the church do with this knowledge? “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, . . . abounding in thanksgiving” (2:6-7). Walk in Christ, abundant in thanksgiving to him. Knowledge, particularly knowledge of who God is and what he has done in Christ, begets thanksgiving. And even when making God known results in struggles, thanksgiving does not waver.
There are central ways in which these truths are applicable for missions. The stewardship of Paul is the stewardship of all missionaries. It is the stewardship of all pastors, which is why the training up of new pastors equipped for this role is so crucial. The task is not an easy one, but it is necessary. The work which we pray for God to do–to make himself known in the world–will not be done without the voices of toiling, struggling proclaimers of the gospel. God has arranged it to be so. And with this knowledge of him and of his will, we give thanks, even in the struggle.
Given at Grace Baptist Church on Sunday, November 22, 2020. Sermon begins at 35:00 in the video. Transcript is below.
I would invite you to turn with me in your Bibles to Psalm 100. And as you are turning there, I want to read for you a statement made by President George Washington in October of 1789. And this statement is known as the “Thanksgiving Proclamation.” Whether or not President Washington himself named it that or someone later did, I’m not sure. But as you’ll see, the name fits. Perhaps you’ve read this before. It was a little more than a decade after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. And it was just a little earlier in the year that the first draft of US constitution was put forth. Here’s what President Washington had to say.
President George Washington’s “Thanksgiving Proclamation” given from New York City on October 3, 1789:
“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me ‘to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.’
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
[A]nd also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.”
A couple of things stand out to me about that statement. First, praise God for men who spoke like this while leading our country. It is increasingly rare to hear our governing authorities make acknowledgments such as these. And the second thing that stands out to me is that President Washington understands that thanksgiving is rooted in the very heart of the Bible’s message about the way that people should respond to the goodness of God. As he says, it is the duty of individuals and of societies to acknowledge God’s providence, obey his will, and be grateful for his benefits. We only know about God’s providence and his will from the Bible, and that knowledge should lead us to respond in thankfulness to him.
What I want to do in this message is to show you from the Bible that we have been Created to Give Thanks. I want you to see that one of the primary reasons you exist is so that you will express thankfulness to God. Everyone wants to know, “Why do I exist?” It’s a fundamental and important question. You and I exist to give thanks. I think that I’m agreeing with the biblical authors when I say that. The writers of historic Christian catechisms come very close to saying it. Many Christians answer the “Why do I exist?” question by saying, “To glorify God.” And to that I say, “Amen.” That answer is biblical. The catechisms understand this.
For example, The New City Catechism, which is a 21st century revision of the Heidelberg Catechism, asks in question #4: How and why did God create us?
Answer: God created us male and female in his own image to know him, love him, live with him, and glorify him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.
Keep those categories in mind. It does not expressly say, “to give thanks to him.” The emphasis is more on glorifying God and living to his glory by knowing, loving, and living with him. It goes on to ask in question 6: How can we glorify God?
Answer: We glorify God by enjoying him, loving him, trusting him, and by obeying his will, commands, and law.
Notice here more categories, but especially the connection between glorifying God by enjoying him. This may remind some of you of the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 1: What is the chief end of man?
Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
You may think that I’ve proven myself wrong from the outset. None of those statements say anything at all about thanksgiving. What I hope to accomplish this morning is to show that none of those priorities can be accomplished without thanksgiving to God. Starting in Psalm 100 we’re going to see, Lord willing, the connections between:
Thanksgiving and Knowing God
Thanksgiving and Glorifying God
Thanksgiving and Enjoying God
Thanksgiving and Loving and Obeying God
Thanksgiving and Trusting God
Thanksgiving and Living with God
And I should make this clear from the outset: I love Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday and has been for most of my life. I like Christmas a lot, but I don’t want to hear Christmas music or see Christmas decorations or watch Christmas movies until after Thanksgiving. I remember some years of my youth we’d spend Thanksgiving in Michigan. My grandfather pastored a church in West Michigan and so my grandparents lived in a parsonage across the lawn from the church. And we’d have so many family members (parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents), that we’d have our Thanksgiving meal in the Fellowship Hall of the church. So we’d carry this feast across the lawn into this transformed banquet hall, and I look back and I think, that’s got to be a foretaste of glory divine. And then, after I got married, I realized pretty quickly that meant two Thanksgiving feasts per year. So, I love Thanksgiving, and I love the priority that the Bible puts on the necessity of Thanksgiving, not the holiday obviously, but the practice of it. The concept of Thankfulness is mentioned over 160 times in the Bible. And you have reason to be thankful because I’m not going to have us look at all of them. But let’s start in Psalm 100.
Thanksgiving and Knowing God
Psalm 100 “A Psalm for Giving Thanks” (There is good reason to think that the superscriptions are inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore intentionally put there by the human author.)
Seven Commands (verses 1-4) All of these are plural commands, meaning that God intends for groups of people to obey these. Some are for “all the earth” and some are for his redeemed.
One Reason: “For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (v. 5)
The source of thankfulness is in the character of God. He is good and we are thankful. His covenant love and faithfulness are forever and for all generations. All our lives he has been faithful and good, so with every breath that we are able, we will sing of the goodness of God.
And that’s what the Psalmist does. He sings a song of thankfulness to God for his goodness and invites others to join him. Some scholars think that Psalm 100 is placed after Psalm 99 as a response to it. In Psalm 99 God is said to be a good King who rules in might and justice over the earth, and a good Priest who forgives those who call out to him. Therefore, the earth should give thanks to him, as Psalm 100 indicates.
Structure of Psalm 100:1-4 (ESV)
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth
Serve the LORD with gladness
Come into his presence with singing
Know the LORD, he is God; He made us, we are his
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise
Give thanks to him
Bless his name
In a structure like this, the middle command is the one that holds the rest together. It’s the hinge that connects the prior statements to the later ones. And the earliest statements correspond to the latest ones, and so on down the line. So the primary command here in this “Psalm for Giving Thanks” is “Know the LORD.” So an application question for you who are here today is do you know the Lord? He is God. He made us. You and I exist because God made us. And he has made a way for us to be his people, the sheep of his pasture. Know the Lord. Know him deeply.
And those who know the Lord will do what is said in those next closest commands, they will come into his presence with singing and they will enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. The psalmist is describing the way that God’s people in the OT would gather at his temple in Jerusalem for worship. The temple had outer gates, and upon entering through the gates you would come into the courts of the temple. And the further you walked into the courts the closer you would come to the presence of God in the form of his ark of the covenant in the innermost part of the temple. The word for “come” in verse 2 is the same as the word “enter” for verse 4, showing that these two statements correspond to one another. God is inviting his people who know him to enter with thanksgiving and praise into his presence.
Anything that happened within the temple was an act of service by the people of Israel especially the priests, to the Lord, which is why verse 2 begins with the command to serve the Lord with gladness. The idea of service extended not just to the temple, but it was also to characterize all of life for God’s people. That’s why in the NT, Paul taught the churches to serve others as though we are serving the Lord (Eph 6:7; Col 3:23).
This is an imperative for the redeemed, but it is an invitation to all the earth. Notice who is addressed in verse 1. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. If you’re here today and you don’t know the Lord, you are invited today to know the Lord and make a joyful noise to him by finding your joy in him.
The beginning commands to make a joyful noise and serve the Lord with gladness match the last two commands at the end of verse 4: give thanks to him, and bless his name. By structuring it this way, the Psalmist matches the theme of thanksgiving with the themes of knowing God, as well as the theme of enjoying God, making a joyful noise to him, serving him joyfully and gladly, and coming into his presence with joyful singing.
And remember the reason for all of this: “The LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Know the Lord and his goodness. He made us, therefore we are his. He extends his steadfast love and faithfulness to us so that we can be his people and the sheep of his pasture forever. Then our lives will reflect a joyous thankfulness to him as we come into his presence.
But what about those who are not thankful? What about when you and I aren’t thankful, but instead we have a sense of entitlement or we become discontent with our circumstances? We have all failed to glorify God, and perhaps the primary way is that we have failed to be thankful. This seems to be Paul’s diagnosis in his opening to his letter to the Romans. To what does he attribute the unrighteousness of man that brings about the wrath of God? Notice his answer.
Thanksgiving and Glorifying God
(ESV) “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
(NIV) “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Not glorifying God = not giving thanks to him
Glorifying God = giving thanks to him
A lack of thankfulness is what doomed humanity back in the garden of Eden, and every human since then has failed to glorify God and failed to give thanks to him. We are a naturally unthankful people, even when we know God. And our lack of thankfulness causes our thinking to become futile and our foolish hearts to become darkened, and it merits the righteous wrath of God.
All of this begs the question: if the Psalmist says we must come into the presence of God with thanksgiving, and yet we are a naturally unthankful people under God’s good condemnation, how can we hope to ever enter into God’s presence? The answer is that our good God sent his only son to be the shepherd who would gather God’s sheep into his fold. Ps 100 called God’s people the “sheep of his pasture.” Jesus is the door of the sheep, which means that access into God’s presence is not found through the gates of a temple but through a person, namely. Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. No one took his life from him, he laid it down willingly He has the authority to lay it down and the authority to take it up again. He knows his sheep, and his sheep know him. And because of Jesus’ substitutionary sacrificial death on the cross, you can be forgiven of your failure to glorify God and your failure to give thanks to him if you will seek God’s goodness by turning from your sin and trusting Christ completely. If you will do this, he will extend his steadfast love and faithfulness to you forever. And you will then know God, and be able to live for his glory by living a life of thankfulness to him. If you’d like to know more about this good news, please talk to someone you’ve seen on stage today, or even just talk to those standing at the door on your way out. We’d love to share more with you.
If thankfulness is tied to glorifying God, then it must also be tied to enjoying God. That’s what we see in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.
Thanksgiving and Enjoying God
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (ESV)
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Joyful calling out to God = Thanksgiving = The will of God
There is one other place in the same letter where something is said to be “the will of God.”
Thanksgiving and Loving/Obeying God
1 Thessalonians 4:3 (ESV)
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” – Sanctification is the process of being made holy and Christlike; being conformed to a greater degree into his likeness. It is the will of God for this to happen for us. Elsewhere in the Bible, we see that those who do the will of God are those who love him. Which is why obeying God and doing his will are both tied to loving him. When we give thanks, we are doing his will, and displaying our love for him. The same goes for when we pursue holiness. To be holy, then, requires that we be thankful. They are both the will of God. Heb 12:14 says that without holiness, no one will see the Lord. Holiness matters, and holiness requires thanksgiving. So thanksgiving matters.
Thanksgiving = the will of God
Sanctification = the will of God
Thanksgiving = Sanctification (holiness)
Let me try to make another point of application here. How can I practice thankfulness in a way that will increase my holiness? Let’s say that you are tempted to covet, or to lust, or to steal. The reason that you would consider acting on those temptations is because you are not content with what God has given to you. You are not thankful. So rather than covet the possessions of others, give thanks to God for what you do have. Rather than lusting after another, give thanks for the spouse that you have, or for the one God will see fit to give you in the future. Rather than taking what is not yours, give thanks for the ability to work and to provide for your needs honestly. Thankfulness can keep us holy. Thankfulness can keep us trusting in God even when circumstances may cause us to think that we don’t have reasons for thankfulness.
For example, when a tornado devastates neighborhoods and homes and churches and schools, it may seem that we have no reason for thankfulness. When a pandemic terrorizes the globe and maxes out hospital beds and shuts down schools and takes hundreds of thousands of lives and altars society as we know it and causes job loss, it may seem that we have no reason for thankfulness. For some, the results of a presidential election seem to bring about worry and fear. So we have to ask ourselves, is our trust in buildings and property and health and paychecks and politics and presidents and FEMA, or is our trust in God?
Paul gave instructions to Timothy about how the church he led was to respond to opposition.
Thanksgiving and Trusting God
1 Timothy 2:1-2 (ESV)
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
In Timothy’s context, the “kings and all who are in high positions” were not saying making proclamations like George Washington. They were denying the God of the Bible and promoting violence against Christ and his church. And Paul taught that the church should display its trust in God by offering to God prayers and thanksgivings for those governing authorities. The application for us then, is this: regardless of which way you voted in the election, the best way to enjoy a peaceful and quiet life is to pray for the men and women who were elected. Give thanks to God for them and for our government. Pray for them so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way. Giving thanks to God for them will show that our trust is not ultimately in the ones who have authority in this age, but it is in the one whose authority will go on for ages without end. Giving thanks in this life prepares us for the life to come.
Thanksgiving and Living with God
Revelation 11:15-17 (ESV)
Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.”
At the end of all things, the kingdom of Christ will overtake and outlast all other rulers and authorities. And the elders, representative of all the nations, will fall before God in thankful worship. And forever we will join them in saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty.”
The catechisms were right. We were created by God to glorify him and enjoy him forever. We were made in his image to know him, love him, live with him, and glorify him. And the biblical authors were right. We can’t do any of those things without thanksgiving. The thanksgiving that Adam and Eve and all of us since have failed to offer we will spend eternity offering back to God, because he is good. His steadfast love endures forever; his faithfulness to all generations.
Author’s Note: I was recently asked by one of our directors to write a devotional relating to the upcoming International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church which will be Sunday, November 6, 2022. This material was also part of a message I preached on October 9, 2022 at Middle Valley Baptist Church in Hixson, TN.
The Old Testament lays the foundation for what God is doing in the world. It reveals how God created the heavens, the earth, and everything in them. He commanded the first man and woman to multiply throughout the earth, that it might be filled with God’s image, knowledge, and glory. But they rebelled, and in their fallen state God exiled them from the paradise in which he had placed them, causing them to be wanderers in the land.
God did not abandon humanity, but chose a new Adam, Abraham, and promised that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Abraham’s offspring were redeemed from slavery in Egypt and brought into a new paradise, where they lived for centuries under God’s prophets, priests, kings. Yet even in this land, the people rejected God’s words and thus were exiled again, this time as captives in the land of Babylon. Once again, God took the initiative to speak his words to his people through prophets. Even in persecution, God had compassion on those who are his.
Through the OT prophets, God communicated his word both through direct messages (such as in Zech 1:1-6) and through visions (such as in Zech 1:7 – 6:8). The NT apostles also employed various strategies for making God known. Paul indicated that he was flexible in his methods but faithful in his message as he shared the gospel with different demographics of people (1 Cor 9:19-23). This example is also true of the OT prophets. We would do well to learn from them.
There are eight visions in the first six chapters of Zechariah, but our focus is only on the first one (which probably corresponds structurally and thematically to the last one in 6:1-8). These visions point forward to God’s purpose of revealing his mercy to all the nations of the earth. At the time of Zechariah’s writings, God had already shown his mercy to his chosen people in Judah by allowing them to return to Jerusalem from their seventy-year Babylonian captivity. Now, as they are awaiting an even greater redemption, Zechariah previews what they can expect as God’s eternal plans are fulfilled.
1. The Lord’s authority in all the earth (vv. 7-11)
Zechariah saw in his vision a man riding on a red horse with three other horses behind him (v. 8). He wants to know, “What are these?” (v. 9). The answer from the rider of the red horse is that they are sent by the Lord to patrol the earth (vv. 10-11).
What do patrollers do? They have authority to observe what is happening. These patrollers have a God-given authority. Their authority is a representation of his authority. It’s like the messenger is showing Zechariah, “Whatever happens, know that the Lord is the one in charge. He is the sovereign one. He is in control.” This knowledge would comfort Zechariah as he saw the rest of the visions unfold, and it should comfort us as we live out these realities in the world.
2. The Lord’s mercy toward his persecuted people (vv. 12-13)
The messenger now has a question for the Lord: “How long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?” (v. 12). Other OT saints had also wondered “how long” certain struggles would continue (see Psalms 13:1-2; 74:9-10; 79:5; 80:4; 89:46; 90:13; 94:3; Hab 1:2; 2:6). The exile into Babylon was a type of persecution for the subjects of God’s kingdom. And even though they had been allowed to return to their homeland, many of God’s promises concerning their future had not yet been fulfilled. So, they were wondering how long God would allow these struggles to continue.
NT saints are not strangers to persecution. Consider Luke’s account of Paul and other disciples as they planted churches and appointed leaders in previously unreached cities.
“When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:21-22)
Or consider what Paul said to Timothy, a pastor he was discipling: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). As John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim” learned, all roads to the Celestial City are paved with trials and opposition.
Interestingly, the response to the question of how long is not specific, but it is reassuring. “The LORD answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me” (Zech 1:13). The Lord was about to display his mercy and grace and kindness once again toward his people. He would pour out his goodness on them in their land just as he had done previously. The words of the Lord are gracious and comforting, even when his mercy seems far off. His words are this way because he is this way (see Exod 34:6-7).
3. The Lord’s jealousy contrasted with his anger (vv. 14-17)
The Lord makes a distinction between his people and those who are not his people. Verse 14 expresses the Lord’s jealousy for his own, and verse 15 expresses the Lord’s anger against the nations who are at ease. God is jealous for his people because he loves them. He is angry with those who oppose him. Humanity’s greatest problem is not persecution or sufferings or tribulations in this life. Our greatest problem is that we are under God’s righteous wrath because of our sinful rebellion against him. We need to be saved from God’s wrath, by God’s grace, and for God’s glory, which can only happen through the person of Jesus, who lived and died and rose again on our behalf so that we can be reconciled to God.
God’s desire for Jerusalem is expressed in verses 16-17. The Lord says, “I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it” (v. 16). The mention of God’s house indicates that God intends to dwell with his people. He also adds that “the measuring line shall be stretched over Jerusalem” (v. 16). A measuring line was a way to speak of separating those who would be set aside for judgment from those who are set aside for mercy.
Lest we think that God’s mercy is only for Jerusalem and not for other nations, notice these promises from later in Zechariah.
“And many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.” (Zechariah 2:11)
“Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” (Zechariah 8:23)
Clearly the Lord’s mercy is not only for the Jews, but for those in all the nations who swear allegiance to the God of the Jews, who is also the Lord of all the earth. The future for Jerusalem and all who dwell in it from the nations is previewed in verse 17, where the Lord promises, “My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.” Whom the Lord chooses, he does not cast out. Our security as the people of God is in God’s choice of us.
This vision of Zechariah points forward to the vision that John saw in Revelation 6:1-11. It’s as though John is interpreting Zechariah through what he relays. Notice the patterns: a vision is given, the word of the Lord is relayed through messengers, horses are sent as symbols of coming judgment, the saints ask how long until the judgment is over, and comforting words are given to them.
The Lord has all authority. Those he judges will not escape. Those he saves he keeps in his mercy.
In October of 2021, I participated in a group discussion about the importance of the Bible for the work that God does both around the world in missions and in the lives of Christians on a daily basis. The discussion was led by my friend Scott Hicks, the Upper School Principal for Grace Baptist Academy in Chattanooga, TN. Others participated in the discussion, but I have only included my responses to his questions here.
SH: Why is the Scripture important?
DP: To put it simply, if we don’t have Scripture, we don’t have life. Or at least, we don’t have the kind of life that is worth living. Nine times in Psalm 119 the Psalmist prays, “Give me life.” He wants to live! But each request for life is tied to Scripture itself. For example:
“My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” (v. 25, see also v. 107)
“Give me life according to your promise!” (v. 154)
“Give me life according to your rules.” (v. 156)
The kind of life that this Psalmist prays for is a life that is according to God’s word, God’s promises, and God’s rules. So, I would say that Scripture is important because whether we realize it or not, we have no life outside of it. If we don’t think of Scripture as vital to our very existence, then we have too low a view of it.
SH: Is Scripture applicable to today’s questions, problems, and issues?
DP: I think the answer is yes, but I’ll give an example to explain why I think the answer is yes. God identifies very closely with his word. To accept God is to accept his Word, and to accept God’s Word is to accept God. But the opposite of that is also true. In 2 Chronicles 12 we are told that King Rehoboam “abandoned the law of the LORD” (v. 1). He forsook the scriptures. But a few verses later the Lord tells Rehoboam, “You abandoned me” (v. 5). To reject the scriptures is to reject God. I give this example to say that I think that Scripture is applicable and relevant today because God is applicable and relevant today. If we think that the Bible cannot guide us through our modern questions, problems, and issues, then we must also think that God has no answer for them. But I think that God is eternally active, and therefore Scripture is as well.
SH: Is the importance of Scripture viewed differently in the USA vs. other countries, continents, and cultures?
DP: It seems to me that all cultures view the Bible as important to some extent, even if that extent is only that it is important historically or for religious purposes. I would say that yes, the Bible is important in those ways, but that it is also important because it is God’s sufficient, clear, authoritative, and necessary revelation to us about himself. Any culture that does not believe that Scripture is sufficient, clear, authoritative, and necessary may view the Bible as important historically, but probably not as important personally.
SH: Can you share a story from ministry where the Scripture changed a person’s life?
DP: Sure. Early on in my tenure as a youth pastor, I led a weekend retreat for our students, and for three days on the retreat, instead of having a speaker come and preach, we used our chapel times to just read the Bible together. We read the entire New Testament in three days. And that event so profoundly shaped our relationship with the Scriptures that the Bible became front and center every time we were together after that. I would often have students visit our youth services and say that they couldn’t believe how much time we spent just reading and studying God’s Word. And I still have students who have graduated come back and thank me for immersing them in the Scriptures because it shapes how they think now as college students and young adults. And it reminds me of when people gave Martin Luther a great deal of credit for what took place during the protestant reformation. Luther basically said, “I did nothing. I simply read and wrote and preached God’s Word. I did nothing; the Word did everything.”
SH: What are some important topics that Scripture teaches us that should influence how we live on a daily basis?
DP: I’ll give one. We need to remember that Scripture is not primarily about us. It’s primarily about God revealing himself through his Son. In a sense, the Bible addresses many topics. But in another sense, the Bible addresses one topic: who God is and what he has done in Christ. If that central message of the Bible is the primary influence on our lives, the way we live on a daily basis will display that gospel message to others.
SH: Why should we submit to the teaching of Scripture to be our guide through life?
DP: I’ve probably already answered this with other things I’ve said, but I’ll try from another angle. Something will guide your life. It might be the Bible or it might be ambitions you have for success or relationships or money or power. But I would once again want to echo the Psalmist who says to God, “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (Psalm 119:72). If Scripture is the guide of your life, it will be better to you than riches and rewards and prizes and promotions.
SH: What message about the Word of God do you want to leave with the upper school students of GBA?
DP: If the Bible seems mundane or uninteresting or not compelling to you, then I would suggest a couple of things. First, commit to read the Bible with other Christians. Ideally, they would be others within your own church but they could also be classmates or family members. And as you read, see if you can find connections within the Bible. How do earlier parts foreshadow later parts, and how do later parts expand on earlier parts, and what key themes keep showing up as you read? And the second thing is, there are a lot of people who would be very interested in helping you to make sense of your Bible. Seek out a pastor or youth leader or teacher or parent who could help your understanding of Scripture, or find good books about how to interpret and study the Bible, or listen to gifted preachers and take good notes of sermons at church and in chapel. As you do this, remember that the goal is not so much to apply the Bible to your life, but to apply your life to the Bible.
Happy Friday to each of you. I hope to give you a brief update of our work so that you can continue to pray for us in an informed way. Here’s what I have been up to:
-Making additional contacts for support: Most of you are aware that we are still not 100% fully supported in this work. I have ramped up my efforts to make contacts with churches and individuals who might be willing and able to come alongside us. Please pray for fruitful connections. If you know of a contact we should make, please pass it along to us, or give our info to them!
-Creating resources for teaching:I have been doing a lot of writing, working to produce articles, studies, lesson plans/outlines, and more for our partners to use in their ministry contexts. Please pray that I will produce good and helpful material and for it to be useful for others.
-Preparing for new mentoring and teaching assignments: I have been asked to participate in a missionary training program with one of our partners in eastern Europe. This program was started by brother Raul to help equip his fellow countrymen for missions and church planting work. He has asked me to mentor some of the students and to teach a module for this year’s enrollees. Click here to learn more about how you can pray for and give towards this work.
-Planning a potential teaching trip for Spring 2023: One of our partner schools in south Asia (for whom I have taught some courses online) has returned to entirely on-campus learning. They have invited me to come teach a module next spring. Please pray for wisdom in thinking through the timing and cost of such a trip.
-Coaching football for our Academy’s middle school team:I love sports, and it continues to be a great opportunity for me to disciple young men, including my son, Asher, who is on the team.
-Resuming meetings after some summer rest:Like those of us in the west, many of our international brothers and sisters break up the routine for summer time. Now we are ready to pick back up with regular Bible studies and planning sessions. Pray that I will be a helpful guide.
-Husbanding, fathering, and trying to keep up:Of course, much of life is not glamorous. A great deal of time is spent getting everyone to and from school, participating in the life of our local church, and living together as a family. Brandi continues to excel in her work as a nurse. Our children are working hard with various tasks. Please do pray for Judah (14), who suffered a rather serious wrist injury at a recent football practice.
There’s likely more that I could say that isn’t coming to mind right now. But please know that we are grateful for those of you who pray for us regularly, give generously, and read these lengthy updates.
(The following is a transcript of a sermon I preached on Sunday, July 3 at West Rome Baptist Church in Manitou Beach, MI.)
 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”  But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.  And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”  And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  They gave him a piece of broiled fish,  and he took it and ate before them.
 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,  and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,  and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.  While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.  And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,  and were continually in the temple blessing God. (ESV)
Our confidence to see a thing accomplished is often directly tied to our trust in the person accomplishing the task. I enjoy cooking, and my wife and I share that task in our home. If it can be grilled or fried, I’m up for the task, confident in my abilities. But if it needs to be baked or boiled, I’m much more confident in her. I can confidently do a few basic car-related tasks. I can change oil and tires, but engines and transmissions are beyond me. Those are entrusted to the professionals.
What happens when your trust and confidence is proved false in another, or in yourself? Either you despair and are hopeless, or you seek out a greater source of confidence. C. S. Lewis’ character Edmund in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe experienced this as he betrayed his siblings and trusted his own instincts and desires in serving the white witch. He is eventually rescued and reunited with his family, but still the witch accuses him before Aslan, the lion.
“You have a traitor there, Aslan,” said the Witch. Of course, everyone present knew that she meant Edmund. But Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.
Isn’t that such a rich picture of what it looks like to be confident in the work of another to accomplish for us what we never could for ourselves? Just like we sing in the old hymn:
When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see him there, Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died my sinful soul is counted free,
For God the Just is satisfied to look on him and pardon me.
Today, from Luke 24, we will see five reasons for confidence in the global mission that God is accomplishing. By confidence, I don’t mean arrogance. And I’m not oblivious to the many things that make missions hard. I’m not avoiding those to paint a rosy picture. But the end of Luke’s gospel draws our attention to the certainty of the success of God’s mission in spite of whatever difficult opposition we may face in it.
1. The Resurrection of Jesus (36-43)
Resurrection is central. In Paul’s classic and crucial defense of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, he states that if Christ is not raised from the dead, then we who believe that he has been raised are of all men most to be pitied. Christians are either the most faithful people in the world or we are the most foolish people in the world, and the determining factor for which side we land on is whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. And because resurrection is central to Christianity, it is essential to Christian missions. If Jesus has not been raised from the dead, don’t be a missionary, and don’t send or support others to go. If Jesus is not risen, there are far better uses for your time and money than spreading word that he is, and few worse uses for them. But if he has been raised, then friends, there are few if any better uses for our lives and resources than spreading this news among the nations.
Resurrection requires death. Resurrection only happens when death comes first. Death is an uncomfortable reality, but it is a reality. In that same chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, Paul writes that death is an enemy. Yet he assures the believers that for them, it is a defeated enemy, one that will soon be put away forever.
The irony is that to defeat death Jesus first had to succumb to it. And to die, Jesus first had to become human. Throughout his gospel account Luke is trying to convince us that Jesus really was born and that he really lived and that he really died. The glory of the resurrection was preceded by his humble incarnation and his humiliating suffering (Luke 24:26). The author of Hebrews confirms this in Hebrews 2.
Jesus “for a little while was made lower than the angels” and was “crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (v. 9).
Jesus partook of flesh and blood “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death…and deliver all those who…were subject to lifelong slavery” (vv. 14-15).
Jesus “had to be made like his brothers in every respect…to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (v. 17).
Resurrection is real. Luke explicitly shows Jesus, who had been dead, doing what only living people can do, such as:
Speaking, including asking questions and offering comfort (36, 38-39, 41)
Inviting touch (39)
Showing his hands and feet (40)
Being hungry, taking food, and eating it (41-43)
The reality of the resurrection stirs up certain emotions for those who believe it. Jesus means for his resurrection to be a source of peace for his followers (36). He intends that his resurrection alleviate their troubles and doubts (38). The resurrection brings joy to those who rightly marvel at it (41).
The good news of the resurrection is the main message of missions. If you look through Luke’s sequel to his gospel in the book of Acts, you see over and over again the earliest missionaries evangelizing on the basis of the fact of the resurrection and seeking to establish churches grounded in that reality.
A few years ago I was teaching through the book of Acts with our youth ministry, and I was noticing how central the resurrection is to so many of Paul’s arguments, particularly as he’s on trial before Felix and Agrippa in Acts 24-26. I won’t rehearse the whole study for you now, but I thought it might be helpful to make note of some of these comments.
The hope in God from the Law and the Prophets is that there will be a resurrection from the dead (24:14-21). Without a resurrection there is no hope. What are your ultimate hopes?
The dispute against Paul focused on whether or not Jesus had been raised from the dead (25:19). Do people dispute you because you are foolish or faithful?
The promise made by God to his people depends on the resurrection, therefore it should be unusual to not believe in it (26:6-8). If no resurrection, God is a liar.
The message from the prophets and Moses is that the Christ would suffer and then rise from the dead (26:22-23). If no resurrection, the Scriptures are false.
The confidence of belief in the resurrection is based in its truthfulness and reasoning (26:25-26). For a Jew (and a Christian) it is unreasonable to not believe in the resurrection. Do you need proof? There’s no proof, but there is reasoning.
There are many good things that can be done in the name of missions. But first and foremost must be the proclamation of the gospel and the resurrection of Christ at its core.
Resurrection is the future for every believer. Again, Paul’s 15th chapter to the Corinthians is so helpful. He asserts, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (20-22). I don’t know if you think of your future in heaven like this, but I hope you do. Our eternity will be bodily. We won’t remain spirits forever. The resurrection of Jesus means that one day the grave will have no more success holding your body than it did holding his.
2. The Fulfillment of Scripture (44-48)
The whole Bible is about Jesus (44-45).
Earlier in Luke 24, as Jesus walked with two disciples on the Emmaus road, Luke records how “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (v. 27). Jesus even went so far as to say that these men were “foolish…and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (v. 25). In other words, they hadn’t correctly read and interpreted the Old Testament. If they had, they would have seen how the people and patterns and practices and events and institutions and types in the OT were pointing forward to what Jesus fulfilled not only in his words and actions while he was alive, but also in his death and resurrection.
So both to those men and to the larger group of disciples here in verses 44-45, Jesus teaches them how to correctly read and interpret those OT scriptures. He says that it all was “written about me.” They are Christ-centered in whole and in each part, whether the writings of Moses or of the prophets or of the psalmists. When you read the OT, seek to pick up on what expectations the writers are building. Ask yourself how those passages anticipate their ultimate fulfillment in Christ.
By way of example consider these prominent themes.
The writings of Moses preview the seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent, the offspring of Abraham through whom every nation on the earth would be blessed, the sacrificial lamb offered in place of the people for the forgiveness of their sins, the lion from the tribe of Judah, the scepter that rises out of Israel to crush the forehead of the enemy, and the prophet like Moses who would speak the words of God, to whom the people should listen.
The Prophets depict a Son of Man seated at the right hand of God to whom was given everlasting dominion and authority, a child who would be born the increase of whose government will never cease, a fountain of living water, the righteous branch of David who will reign as king, deal wisely, and execute justice and righteousness in the land.
The Psalmists sing of a blessed man whose delight is in the law of the LORD, a Son begotten of God who has the nations as his heritage and the ends of the earth his possession to rule them with a rod of iron, in whose presence there is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore, the one forsaken by God and betrayed by his friends, the king and high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
These are but a few of the ways that we are helped to center the OT narratives and poems and discourses on the person of Jesus.
Christ fulfilled the biblical pattern of suffering then glory (45-46). Because the Bible is a Christ-centered text, it’s not surprising that the pattern of Jesus’ life reflects many who came before him. We could ask, “In what sense can Luke record and Jesus say that ‘it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead’?” After all, there’s not a direct statement like that in the OT. And I think the answer is that even though there’s not a matching scriptural statement there are several matching scriptural patterns.
Joseph was rejected by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused, and wrongfully imprisoned before being exalted to the right hand of the throne in Egypt.
“Moses was rejected by his Hebrew kinsman (Exod 2:11-14; Acts 7:23-29), and Pharaoh sought to kill him (2:15).” The nation of Israel “grumbled against him…and even sought to put him to death.” His own brother and sister even opposed him before he eventually led the nation to the brink of the land God had promised, identifying Moses as a prophet like unto whom none had arisen after.
Other examples could be given, but even with these two we can see that this pattern of “rejection then exaltation” or “suffering then glory” is prominent among God’s people in the OT. It should not surprised us then, that such was the case for Jesus as well. He was “at least initially, rejected by his brothers.” He was betrayed, falsely accused, and put to death before being lifted from the pit and raised to sit at the right hand of the throne of God. It is in these ways that such things were written.
And according to statements made by both Paul and Peter, it should not surprise us when our lives follow the same pattern. Do not be surprised when fiery trials come upon you, because through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
The scriptures testify to the knowledge of God spreading around the world (47-48). Not only is it “written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead” (v. 45), but according to Luke’s record of Jesus’ next statement, it is also written “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (47). The book of Acts, also written by Luke, is often described as a missionary book. Because of the missions emphasis of Paul’s letters and John’s visions of the nations in Revelation, some even go so far as to identify the whole NT as a missions text. But verse 47 makes the case, and I think it’s a convincing one, that even the OT is a missions document. And if that’s the case, then we can rightly conclude that indeed the whole Bible has missions as a prominent theme.
From the very beginning God intends for his name and image and glory to spread throughout the whole earth, as seen in his command to Adam in Genesis 1 that he “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over” what walks and crawls and swims on the earth (Gen 1:28).
God promised Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him (Gen 12:3).
In Psalm 22:27-28, David taught Israel to sing, “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.”
And in Psalm 46:10, the Lord instructs them, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord promises Israel, “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (49:6).
And Malachi records the Lord’s statement, “From the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts” (1:11), and “I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations” (1:14).
When Jesus tells his followers in v. 48, “You are witnesses of these things,” he seems to mean that they have seen salvation accomplished and forgiveness of sins secured through what he had done and now they are to proclaim such to the nations in fulfillment of what the Scriptures testified.
Just as everything concerning Christ in the Scripture was fulfilled, so we can be confident that everything concerning the glory of God among all the nations will be fulfilled.
3. The Power of the Holy Spirit (49)
The command for the apostles to be Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the earth in Acts 1:8 is strengthened by the promise that the power of the Holy Spirit would come upon them.
Jesus doesn’t leave us alone to just do the best we can in the great commission. He sends his Spirit, so that we have the presence of God with us and in us as we make disciples of all nations.
4. The Expectation of Christ’s Return (50-51)
Again, the statements here at the end of Luke dovetail with the beginning of the book of Acts.
Angels came to the place from which Jesus ascended and asked the crowd there, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
Jesus himself assured his followers in Matthew 24:14 that “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Why might it seem to us that Christ is delayed in his coming? Because the task of missions is not yet done. Christ is patient and longsuffering, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Which is why we proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins. And as we do, we can be confident that God is drawing his people to himself, and that the day of Christ’s return is drawing near.
5. The Activity of the Church (52-53)
The joyful worship of the believers at the temple in Jerusalem once again previews how the church is portrayed in the early chapters of Acts.
It was at the temple that the first converts within the congregation at Jerusalem “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of break and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). They daily interacted at the temple for worship and prayer and fellowship and meals and hospitality as “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (2:47).
“And every day in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” (Acts 5:42).
Matthew’s record of Jesus’ commission records how they were to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20). In other words, do for others what I have done for you. Where is it that Jesus’ followers are baptized, and that people are taught to obey Jesus’ commands? Most commonly these things happen in local churches. Every time you gather as the people of God on the Lord’s Day you are, even in what may seem like a small way, fulfilling the great commission. Every gathering of the church is a step toward and a preview of that day when every tribe, tongue, people, and nation will be gathered around the throne of God. So let us confidently assemble and worship and pray and go and send so that more churches can be planted around the world for the glory of God.
Why are we especially confident in these things? Because these are things only achievable by God. By placing our confidence in these things, we affirm our trust in God, not ourselves. God does not guarantee the success of your specific local church, but he does of his global church. He does not guarantee the well-being of my missions team, but he does guarantee that his mission will succeed. So our trust and confidence are in him. To him alone be the glory forevermore.
C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1950), 141.
Charitie Lees Bancroft, “Before the Throne of God Above,” 1860.
James M. Hamilton Jr., Typology—Understanding the Bible’s Promise-Shaped Patterns: How Old Testament Expectations are Fulfilled in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2022), 178.
If you asked a Christian leader in a war-torn, economically-impoverished country what the churches in his homeland need most, you might be surprised at his answer.
A teammate of mine was able to ask exactly this question recently. Listen to the (unscripted) response she received.
His answer highlights the priority of the work God has given me to do: Training pastors, missionaries, teachers, and leaders around the world for the health of the global church. If you’d like to learn more about this work, why it matters, and how to join in it, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.