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Original posted by Nathan Pitchford  in www.reformationtheology.com. 

Not only does trinitarian theology shape the goal toward which the Christian mission is striving; it also clarifies the means which are to be used in the pursuit of that goal. Redemption is ultimately an accomplishment of the triune God; he alone is the doer of the work, and therefore, any human activity must flow from his prior activity, and be directed and empowered by him. The mission that God left his people with is ultimately his mission, and advances on the basis of his eternal, immutable design; and so, any human activity which fails to take into account God’s redemptive plan as he has made it known is bound to be frustrated. Human mission endeavors are likely to be successful only as they understand the divine agenda and lean upon divine strength. This means that a first qualification for any missionary is a knowledge of the triune God; an awareness of the role of the persons of the Godhead in the work of redemption, as revealed in the scriptures; and a heart-attitude of faith in those joint operations of the persons of the Trinity.

For example, take the scriptural revelation of the work of the Father in the plan of redemption: he is the ultimate planner, the source from whom the whole work flows and is governed. We see throughout the gospel of John that the Son, in the fulfillment of his part of the redemptive work, acts in an unceasing obedience to the Father’s will (e.g. John 5:17-19, 30; 8:28-29; 10:17-18; 14:31; 17:4). Likewise the Spirit, when he comes, speaks not on his own, but only what he has heard from the Father and the Son (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14). This role of the Father in planning out the work of redemption is seen with special clarity in the aspect of his choosing its subjects. We have already observed that the Father has chosen a specific people to give to the Son, and that the Son has purposed to redeem these alone (e.g. John 6:37-40; 10:29; 17:1-2, 6, 10); we may add to this testimony the witness of the epistles, which speaks of the Father’s choice of a certain people to be redeemed in no uncertain terms (e.g. Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-6; 1 Peter 1:1-2). We may learn further from the revelation of scripture that this people is chosen out of every kindred, tribe, tongue, and nation (e.g. Revelation 5:9), and that it will be called out only when the gospel is proclaimed in all the world (e.g. Matthew 24:14).

So how does this truth affect the task of the Christian missionary? First, it gives him a clear directive in the pursuit of the task: as the Church continues to spread across the world, believers may know that in their missionary endeavors they ought to target the kindreds, tribes, tongues, and nations which are yet unreached, because they know that the conversion of representatives from these peoples is the Father’s will. Their task remains undone as long as there is any people group that has not heard the gospel, or that has not yet seen fruit from the proclamation of the gospel. Second, this understanding gives hope to missionaries laboring in the most difficult places. When Paul was experiencing opposition in Corinth, he was comforted by the realization that the Father had many people in that city, chosen for a redemption which had not yet been applied (see Acts 18:9-11). In the same way, the missionary who understands the biblical representation of the Father’s role in redemption has a strong hope that his labor will not be in vain, and has cause to cry out to God in faith for the success which has been promised. Because God has chosen a people, our ultimate success is guaranteed. This foundational awareness of the Father’s revealed role in the work of redemption drives a faithfulness which would otherwise wilt under the discouragement of unfavorable circumstances.

Consider as well the Son’s role in the work of redemption: he has determined to redeem the people God has chosen through his sacrificial blood, shed in their behalf; and in consequence of this redemption, he has won the right to return and judge the world, saving those who believe in him and condemning those who do not believe. Understanding this role clarifies the missionary’s task of proclaiming the gospel: for the account of this work is precisely the gospel he must proclaim. To the extent that one has not understood the role of the Son in redemption, he cannot proclaim the good news of that redemption. When Paul labored to bring the gospel to people, he emphasized Christ’s role as the returning judge and his resurrection from the dead, which had given him the authority to be Lord of the living and the dead (e.g. Acts 17:31; Romans 14:9). He also emphasized his shed blood, which serves as a fully acceptable propitiation for the sins of all who believe in Christ, and on that basis exhorted people to be reconciled to God (e.g. Acts 13:38-39; Romans 3:23-28; 1 Corinthians 1:23-24; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21). Now, to forget the part of Christ’s redemptive work which promises him the authority to come and judge the world, casting his enemies into eternal punishment, strips the gospel of its necessary context. Just asking a person, “Do you want to be saved?” is meaningless unless it is made clear what he must be saved from. But saying, “God has raised his Son from the dead, vindicating his authority to return to the earth and judge all who are opposed to him; would you be saved from the wrath that he will soon bring upon the earth in great fury?” – that provides the necessary background to display the surpassing goodness of the good news. But not only must Christ’s judging role be emphasized; so also must his atoning, propitiatory role be emphasized, or else the news is not good at all. Saying, “Jesus has risen from the dead, and is Lord over all” is only bad news for anyone still in his sins. To the extent that the missionary does not understand the role of the Son in the work of redemption, therefore, he is left without a message to take to the nations of the world, the message by which all the Father’s chosen people will be called out.

Similarly, without an understanding of the Spirit’s role in redemption, the missionary is apt to be frustrated. It is only through the Spirit’s empowerment that the missionary can proclaim the good news with boldness and clarity (see Acts 1:8); and likewise, it is only through the Spirit’s work of convicting and regeneration that the elect of the Father can understand and come to Christ (e.g. John 3:5-8). Understanding the role of the Spirit directs the means of praying for and pursuing the evangelistic task; it also provides the ongoing confidence in the missionary’s own secure position in the favor of God. The Spirit is sent to seal and guarantee the final salvation of all who have once come to Christ (e.g. Romans 8:11-17; Ephesians 1:13-14); and without that constant witness and encouragement, the missionary is apt to despair at his own condition, especially when his circumstances grow difficult.

So then, an understanding of the inter-trinitarian roles in the work of redemption is a necessary foundation for the Christian missionary, shaping the message he has to take, clarifying to whom he has to take it, and providing inexhaustible hope and encouragement along the way. But there is also another way in which the doctrine of the trinity serves as the means of Christian evangelism; and that is, it is only as the trinitarian nature of God is displayed in the lives of Christians that unbelievers will come into a relationship with this triune God.

In his last discourse, Christ revealed to his disciples the means by which the world of unbelievers would recognize that they were truly followers of Christ: and that means was nothing other than the love they had for each other, which is reflective of the inter-trinitarian love of the persons of the Godhead (see John 13:34-35). When believers are brought into a covenantal relationship of love which is reflective of the eternal trinitarian covenant of love, people take notice. Mankind was created to display the image of God, and until he does so, he is living a life devoid of ultimate purpose. Mankind was created to know and enjoy God; and when he gets a glimpse of God’s nature, in the lives of believers, he realizes that he wants something like that, but he does not yet have it. This is why, in John 17:21, Jesus prayed that the disciples would be one even as he and the Father were one – so that the world would believe that the Father had sent him! When the world sees the blessed trinity reflected in the lives of the disciples, it is only then that they will believe in the actual trinity, the Father and the Son whom he sent.

So then, the shaping element of the doctrine of the trinity for the means of the Christian mission goes even beyond the fact that the knowledge of the redemptive work of the Godhead is a necessary foundation for taking the message to the world; in fact, the display of the inter-trinitarian relationships in the lives of the disciples constitutes a necessary means through which the gospel message may be understood and desired. — from “How the Doctrine of the Trinity Shapes the Christian Mission”.

 

 

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Foreword: The Legacy of Antioch was preached by John Piper on October 25, 2009, his exposition on Acts 11:19-26 interspersed with a topic on partnering for missions. Hereunder is an excerpt from that sermon which I would like to share to you with the hopes as well that anyone who is called in the “sending” or in the “going” for missions will be encouraged further for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

EmmausTrekker

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The Church in Antioch

19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” – Acts 11:19-26

I have asked the Lord to help me choose words so that one or more of these eight implications will penetrate hundreds of hearts that he has been preparing for this work. Some of you are ready and only need guidance. Others of you are sensing a change of life on the horizon, and you need God to push you over the edge of your dream. And some you will be awakened to a new calling from the Lord for the first time today. And the rest will, I pray, rededicate yourselves to aggressive involvement in sending. There are only three kinds of people in relation to missions: Goers, Senders, and Disobedient.

1. Someone must cross the cultural barriers that separate unreached peoples from the gospel.

Some of you are being called to this hardest of all work. Look at Acts 11:19-20.

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus.

The Hellenists in this context means Greek-speaking Gentiles. Till now the gospel was spreading mostly along the mono-cultural lines of Judaism from synagogue to synagogue (with the exception of Cornelius in Acts 10). But in Antioch, someone broke through the barriers of language and culture and spoke the gospel to the Gentiles.

Is that you? Is God stirring you, moving you? Would you consider giving your life to this? There is no other way for the church to fulfill her mission in the world. God will raise up the workers and send them out. What an honor we have to send them. And what an honor it would be if you were one of them.

2. Don’t wait to be forced out by persecution.

Look at Acts 11:19: “Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled.” The believers in Jerusalem were not leaving on mission voluntarily. It took a persecution to force them into mission.

Little did Stephen know that one of the great effects of his death would be the mission of the church outside Jerusalem because people were driven away. So my point is simply this: Don’t wait till someone has to die to move out of America—or across the street to the Somalis or the Native Americans. God has his ways to loosen our roots and move us. Some of them are gentle—like a still small voice—and some are severe—like the death of a great man. Tune your heart, and discern how God is leading. Do it before you have to do it.

3. The hand of the Lord will be with you, when you follow him into his mission.

Acts 11:21: “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.”

When Jesus gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28:20, he closed with a promise, one of the sweetest in the Bible—one that has sustained many missionaries in the darkest hours. “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus gave us this promise so that as you sit there and ponder how he may be changing your whole life-course, you will have ringing in your ears: Don’t be afraid. I am going to be with you. I am going to be with you.

4. Be willing to serve a work that God has already begun.

Acts 11:22-23: “The report of this [pioneer breakthrough in Antioch] came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.”

Barnabas was not the first on the ground in Antioch. He did not begin the work. He was sent to serve what someone else began. He was building where someone else had laid the foundation. Some of you are called to do this. It is a noble work.

It means that dozens of jobs that are done here at home in the midst of thousands of churches and tens of thousands of Christians could be done in a place where the church is younger and smaller. Many of you are being loosened from your roots these days to make such a move.

5. The main prerequisite for this work is not great gifts but great grace.

Acts 11:23-24: “When he [Barnabas] came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.”

There is no reference here to Barnabas’ gifts, but only to his graces—that is, his spiritual and moral qualities, not his skills. Verse 24: He was good. He was full of the Holy Spirit. And he was full of faith. The effect was that God worked. He added people to the Lord. God is not mainly looking for great gifts. He is looking for great faith that is willing to be filled with the Holy Spirit and then does good. God may be calling you not because you have great gifts, but because he has taught you to trust him implicitly. I don’t mean there are no qualifications. I mean they may not be as insurmountable as you think.

6. When you sense God’s leading, recruit others to go with you.

Acts 11:24-25: “So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.”

Acts doesn’t tell us that God told Barnabas to do this. It just says he did it. He needed help and he knew someone who would be a good helper. So he recruited him. And Saul came. Don’t be afraid of saying to a friend, “Would you consider going with me?”—or to a couple, “Would you consider going with us?” Many times in history God has called a person through the forthright requests of others.

7. In all your evangelism and church planting, don’t neglect to teach the converts and to take them deep into the gospel and build them up so they are stable and strong.

Acts 11:23 says that Barnabas “exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.” And in verse 26, it says that Barnabas and Saul together focused on teaching. “For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people.”

What if God sends a great awakening? What if he gives a great harvest and grows the church with a great response the way he did in Antioch? Verse 21: “A great number who believed turned to the Lord.” Verse 24: “A great many people were added to the Lord.” What will you do if God sends such blessing?

Don Carson tells of talking to woman who had been converted during the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905. That conversation was, he says, “an inexpressibly glorious half hour.” But then he commented on how sad it is that so little of the revival was preserved. “Almost nothing was done to capture or develop theological schools, multiply Bible teaching, or train a new generation of preachers.” So Carson makes this amazing pledge, and I turn it into an exhortation to some of you:

Should the Lord in his mercy ever pour out large-scale revival on any part of the world where I have influence, I shall devote all my energy to teaching the Word, to training a new generation of godly pastors, to channeling all of this God-given fervor toward doctrinal maturity, multiplication of Christian leaders, evangelistic zeal, maturity in Christ, genuine Christian “fellowship.”8

In other words, he would do what Barnabas and Saul did. They saw a great ingathering, and they taught and taught and taught. They strengthened the believers. They sank the roots of the people down deep. They brought stability. They built a foundation for missions.

All over the world (you read this in all the literature), the cry is for trained, strong, Bible-saturated leaders. What will your part be in raising them up?

8. Be open to a significant change in your life.

Some of you know that God is making you restless where you are. You sense deeply that what you are doing now is not what you will be doing for long. Others of you need to think seriously about whether your present secure and established position maybe is not a path to security or an exit ramp to retirement, but a runway for taking off into something new in missions.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

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When you were under the fig tree, I saw you” —John 1:48

 

Worshiping in Everyday Occasions. We presume that we would be ready for battle if confronted with a great crisis, but it is not the crisis that builds something within us— it simply reveals what we are made of already. Do you find yourself saying, “If God calls me to battle, of course I will rise to the occasion”? Yet you won’t rise to the occasion unless you have done so on God’s training ground. If you are not doing the task that is closest to you now, which God has engineered into your life, when the crisis comes, instead of being fit for battle, you will be revealed as being unfit. Crises always reveal a person’s true character.

A private relationship of worshiping God is the greatest essential element of spiritual fitness. The time will come, as Nathanael experienced in this passage, that a private “fig-tree” life will no longer be possible. Everything will be out in the open, and you will find yourself to be of no value there if you have not been worshiping in everyday occasions in your own home. If your worship is right in your private relationship with God, then when He sets you free, you will be ready. It is in the unseen life, which only God saw, that you have become perfectly fit. And when the strain of the crisis comes, you can be relied upon by God.

Are you saying, “But I can’t be expected to live a sanctified life in my present circumstances; I have no time for prayer or Bible study right now; besides, my opportunity for battle hasn’t come yet, but when it does, of course I will be ready”? No, you will not. If you have not been worshiping in everyday occasions, when you get involved in God’s work, you will not only be useless yourself but also a hindrance to those around you.

God’s training ground, where the missionary weapons are found, is the hidden, personal, worshiping life of the saint.

 

-Excerpt from My Utmost for His Highest – September 10 –  by Oswald Chambers (1874-1917)

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Foreword

My cousin, Susan, brought my attention to an article entitled ‘John Calvin: Comeback Kid’ by Timothy George posted in Christianity Today on September 8, 2009.  Although I do not fully agree always with some of the  views of the various contributors published in this magazine, may I direct you to view the full printer-friendly article though this LINK, while an excerpt is pasted below.  Indeed there is a resurgence of Reformed Theology today, thank God! The article is a primer of sorts in answer to the the following questions: Why does Calvin persist as such a controversial—and monumental—figure in the Christian story? Why does he still generate such contrary emotions? What has kept Calvin from fading into the shadows of church history? 

‘John Calvin: Comeback Kid’ contain the following sections:

  • Introduction
  • Late Bloomer
  • Ministry ‘On the Boundary’
  • A Churchly Reformer
  • ‘Preforeordestination’
  • Theology for Trekkers
  • Complex, Inconsistent
  • Calvinism Reborn

I pasted an excerpt below which brings a testimony to fore on  the fact that Reformed Christians (or Calvinists) were instrumental to a robust missionary movement in the last few hundred years contrary to what others have said concerning predestination-election theology that purports to make one complacent in the Great Commission.

Timothy George (ThD, Harvard University) is founding dean of Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, and a senior editor of Christianity Today. He is the author or editor of more than twenty books, including Theology of the Reformers and God the Holy Trinity. He also serves as the general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture, a 28-volume work of 16th-century biblical comment forthcoming from InterVarsity Press.

 

Excerpt from John Calvin: Comeback Kid

Theology for Trekkers

In Calvin’s day, Geneva became a great center for church planting, evangelism, and even “foreign” missions: a group of Protestants supported by Admiral de Coligny carried the message of Christ to the far shores of Brazil in 1557, more than 60 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. William Carey, the father of modern missions in the 18th century, went to India with a Calvinist vision of a full-sized God—eternal, transcendent, holy, filled with compassion, sovereignly working by his Holy Spirit to call unto himself a people from every nation, tribe, and language group on earth.

In Book Three of the Institutes, Calvin treats predestination and prayer in contiguous chapters (Institutes3.20-21). The universal appeal of Calvin’s thought is expressed clearly in this petition he prepared for his liturgy “The Form of Prayers”:

We pray you now, O most gracious God and merciful father, for all people everywhere. As it is your will to be acknowledged as the Savior of the whole world, through the redemption wrought by your son Jesus Christ, grant that those who are still estranged from the knowledge of him, being in the darkness and captivity of error and ignorance, may be brought by the illumination of your Holy Spirit and the preaching of your Gospel to the right way of salvation, which is to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3).

…One of the mysteries of the mystique of Calvinism is how such a high predestinarian theology could motivate so many of its adherents to such intense this-worldly activism. Calvinism was certainly a dynamic force in shaping the contours of the modern world, including features of it that most of us would not want to live without, such as the rule of law, the limitation of state power, and a democratic approach to civil governance. Though Max Weber was off the mark in identifying the “spirit of capitalism” with the Puritan desire to find assurance of election in a joyless acquisitiveness, he was right to point to the importance of Calvinist ideals—thrift, hard work, fair play, personal responsibility—in the development of a robust economic system.

Calvin’s theology was meant for trekkers, not for settlers, as historian Heiko Oberman put it. In the 16th century, Calvinist trekkers fanned out across Europe initiating political change as well as church reform from Holland to Hungary, from the Palatinate to Poland, from Lithuania to Scotland, England, and eventually to New England. In its drive and passion, in its world-transforming vision, Calvinism was an international fraternity comparable only to the Society of Jesus in the era of the Reformation. It is perhaps ironic that Calvin and Ignatius Loyola studied at the same time in the same school in Paris.

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There is no better test of our spiritual state and condition than our missionary zeal, our concern for lost souls. That is always the thing that divides people who are just theoretical and intellectual Christians from those who have a living and a vital spiritual life.”

The man who is a true Christian is a man who has had a glimpse of Hell, and who knows that there is only one reason for the fact that he is not bound for it.”

 

Daily Readings-MLJ

 

A First Book of Daily Readings by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones can be accessed through this link at The Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recordings Trust website.

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“There are so many conferences dealing with missions and yet I feel that mission has lost its message. That we have become strategists, missiologists, and we have forgotten that, first and foremost, we are theologians and prophets, and that our task is not to do missions. Our task is to take the truth – God’s truth reavealed in God’s Word – to the world. That more than being culturally sensitive to the places where we go, we are to be biblically sensitive, and rather than being pragmatic, and doing what we think will work, we are to do what’s right whether it works or not.”

Paul Washer, The Great Privilege sermon
Preached at the First Baptist Church in Powell, Texas

Link to view video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcIxGJdX-C8&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ereformata%2Eorg%2F&feature=player_embedded

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