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JANUARY 2003

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Matthew 28:19-20

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

This is the great commission. Many of us who preach the Gospel have been motivated by the commands and by the promise “lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age”. However, to get the promise, we must meet the conditions which involve making disciples, baptizing and teaching all things. As we look at the new year and realize that the war drums are sounding and that the Lord may be preparing to come, we need to ask ourselves if we are doing His will with regard to this commission.

Many want to limit their ministry to the making of disciples and there really is nothing more satisfying than to see someone become a disciple of the Lord’s, to see them pass from death unto life and to follow the Lord because he loves the One who loved him. However, many evangelists and pastors are telling me today that they don’t want to get into doctrine (teaching) because it is divisive and they have enough to do just making disciples. However, our commission is threefold and we cannot avoid the last two parts of the commission if we want the blessing of the Lord’s presence in our ministry.

Let’s leave the “teaching all things” part of the commission for a moment and ask ourselves if we are encouraging new disciples to prove that they are following the Lord by identifying with Him in baptism. Immediately, I am going to hear someone say, “but there are so many different opinions about baptism”. That is true but the evangelist has to come to terms with the Lord’s will in this matter and make that known to the new disciples or he is not carrying out the commission. Some say that baptism can be done to infants, some say it has to be done when we are adults, some say only believers should be baptized. Some say baptism is part of the process of being saved, others say baptism doesn’t save but pleases the Lord when we are saved. Some say baptism is by sprinkling, some say it is by pouring and some say it is by immersion in water. Some say only the ordained can baptize, others put no stock in the baptizer thinking that only the baptism itself is important (though no one would encourage an unsaved or immoral person to be the baptizer). Some think baptism makes you a member of the local church, others see baptism as identifying the person with Christ and not with any group of believers. With all of these views being taught by different groups, what is an evangelist to do? I believe that he must get alone with God and come to terms with the Lord’s will in this matter. First he must decide if the doctrine of baptism and its institution is even important to the Lord and if it is important, then he must decide what pleases the Lord on this issue.

I personally believe that you can go to heaven without being baptized but that you shouldn’t go to heaven without being baptized. I personally believe baptism is by immersion in water and that it always follows believing or trusting the Lord in the Bible. I believe it identifies disciples with the Lord and not with the baptizer or a particular group of Christians. And since I am an evangelist who wants to carry out the great commission, I would love to show you why I believe these things. If you are an evangelist, pastor or teacher, I hope you are willing to deal with these issues in your own mind and life so you can teach them in your ministry.

Week of January 5, 2003

  • Psalm 23:4,Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me
  • Samuel 17:36, Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.

David, the shepherd, had killed a lion that was threatening his flock. Then he killed a bear. Now David faces an uncircumcised Philistine who is over nine feet tall and who is threatening the armies of the living God (1 Samuel 17:36). This giant was in the valley of Elah and there was a mountain on either side. The Israelites were on one side and the Philistines were on the other side and the battle was going to be fought in the valley.

Saul, the king of Israel, was afraid to lead the charge against this enemy. None of his generals seemed to want to fight this champion. David’s brothers were afraid of this man. But David considered the enemy to be defying the honor of the Lord and he wasn’t afraid. He couldn’t fight with other men’s armor and weapons. He had to use the sling and stone of the shepherd. These were weapons with which he had become skillful. So he picked five smooth stones and used just one to hit the Philistine where he was vulnerable. David was victorious in the valley.

Do you suppose the shepherd boy who had become a warrior was thinking about this valley when he wrote Psalm 23? The Psalm recognizes the Lord as David’s shepherd. He would not fail him. He was with him. He provided for him with a table of provision and fellowship in the presence of his enemies.

A valley is usually a place of trial. A shadow is not real but is caused by something real that hides the sun (SON). I think that the lion pictures Satan (1 Peter 5:8). I think that the bear pictures the world, the organized society that is opposed to God (friendly looking but dangerous). I think the uncircumcised Philistine represents the flesh (the appetites and desires that are opposed to God). The flesh never dies and therefore always has relatives or descendents or brothers. Goliath had four relatives (2nd Samuel 21). Sometimes we are victorious over the flesh and sometimes when we should be victorious we are not. David had to be saved in 2nd Samuel 21 but he was victorious in 1 Samuel 17. He had five stones. He didn’t expect to miss, but he did know that if he licked the first giant, he might need to be prepared for the relatives since families tend to stick together.

When David had the right motive (the honor of God) and the right weapons (not ones provided by man but ones God had prepared him to use by protecting sheep), he was victorious. What shadow is the enemy casting over our lives that is going to test our faith? David could say, “Thou art with me” and while the enemy tells us otherwise, the Lord has won the victory even if we are weak. The victory of David can encourage us to be strong in faith as humans but this also pictures the Lord who defeated the enemy and never failed. He encourages us when the storm is raging with the admonition, “ Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid (Matthew 14:27).”

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Week of January 12, 2003

Genesis 32: 26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.

 

Jacob was afraid. He had offended his brother 20 years before and now he was about to meet him. It is in these circumstances and alone with God that Jacob wrestles with God for blessing.

Sometimes God blesses us without our asking or even being concerned. He sends the rain on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45). He gives and sustains our lives without our being too concerned about it. But sometimes we need to wrestle with God until He blesses us.

Jacob had gotten blessing 20 years earlier through deception. He had pretended to be Esau and he got Esau’s blessing from his father (Genesis 27:19). A man has to do what a man has to do, right? After all, people say that all is fair in love, war and business. Then he was blessed when he was working for Laban through hard work and cunning. He seemed to know something about selective breeding and as a result he managed to legally keep the stronger animals for his own herd (Genesis 30:41-42). After all, God helps those who help themselves, right? But the blessing he needs now, he can’t get by deception or cunning or hard work. He must get it alone with God. He wrestles with Him until the dawning of a new day.

Sometimes we need to agonize in prayer in order to get things straightened out with God and to obtain the blessing that only He can give. Jacob acknowledged that he was not worthy of blessing (Genesis 32:10). Now God could get all the glory. Salvation would not be because of the cunning or work or deception of Jacob but because of God’s mercies. Jacob admitted specific sin. When he was asked his name, he said, “ Jacob” (Genesis 32:27). Twenty years before he had lied and said his name was Esau. Now he must be honest. His name means liar, or supplanter or deceiver. So, in his language, he was saying, “I am a deceiver.”

Did Jacob get blessing when he acknowledged his sin and threw himself on the mercy of God? Yes, he got a new name (prince), a new life (a new day), and a new walk (he now limped when he walked), and a new diet (he no longer ate the thigh muscle that had shrunk). This likely means he no longer fed on that which represented man‘s weakness and failure. As a prince with God, he met the brother he had offended and lived to tell about it.

Jacob wanted blessing. He was willing to go to the mat to get it. And he was blessed after learning a few lessons. Is there blessing that we need today? Are we willing to wrestle with God (through prayer) until we get it?

Week of January 19, 2003

  • Genesis 45:8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God:

  • Genesis 50:20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Joseph was a remarkable man. He could have been bitter and full of anger. He had it in his power to get revenge on his brothers who had sold him into slavery. Instead, he saw the hand of God in all that was done and, as a result, he showed mercy and grace and became a savior.

Joseph of course reminds us of the Lord Jesus Christ. Men meant to do evil when they crucified Him, but God meant it for good that we might have a Savior. The Lord had it in His power to call twelve legions of angels and to destroy his enemies. Instead, He committed Himself to the will of His Father and died for our sins. This produced a greater victory.

When circumstances are against us, our mental peace would be restored if we realized that all that happens to us is known by God and is allowed by God to accomplish His purposes. God in His wisdom, uses our sinnership to bring glory to Himself by saving sinners through the crucifixion of His Son. He shows us a love that we would have never known if sin had not come into this world. It is easy to love good people but God loves sinners (Romans 5:6-8).

We don’t always know the reason why some things are happening at the time they are occurring. Interestingly, I am not sure that our adversary, the Devil, always knows why God allows his attacks either. If he really understood, why would he have persecuted Joseph through the brothers when this was the avenue that God would use to save the Jewish nation and the Messianic lineage? Why would he have used the unbelievers of the Lord’s day to crucify Him if he had known how many would be saved as a result?

Today, let us recognize that God knows all about the economy and its associated unemployment. He knows all about the possibilities of war. He knows all about our personal circumstances and likely will glorify Himself through whatever trial we may be passing.

Week of January 26, 2003