Faith

7 Ways to Endure to the End

I don’t know about you, but over the past year, I’ve experienced moments of just about every emotion imaginable as I’ve walked through the various evil events filling up our 2020 calendars. Anger. Outrage. Offense. Depression. Anxiety. Fear. Frustration. Incredulity. Grief. Maybe you’ve had those moments too.

I’d like to give all of you a hug and say “Cheer up! Everything’s going to be fine!” – temporally speaking.

And maybe it will be.

But I don’t think so.

Sure, there are going to be times of blessing and happiness in our future, just like there were last year and every year before. But as far as the general trajectory American society and government are on, things are going downhill at breakneck speed. And unless we stop and think now, get prepared now, we’re going to be caught unawares and fail at what could be a crucial moment of decision.

Trials and persecution – real persecution – are coming. And coming sooner than we think. How can we be prepared to endure whatever comes our way until Christ returns?

1.
Go to church

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25

I get it. “Go to church” isn’t as easy as it used to be. I get that some of your churches are closed. I get that there are health concerns.

But I also get that when the Holy Spirit inspired the author of Hebrews to pen these words, He knew full well, and, in His sovereignty had pre-ordained, all the details surrounding Covid and the restrictions and hassles that go along with it. And still He said that as the day of Christ’s return gets closer, we need to meet together (face to face, in person) more, not less.

Do we believe Him? Do we trust Him? Will we obey Him?

I don’t know you. I don’t know your situation. So, I can’t tell you what to do. All I’m saying is that as Covid restrictions drag on and on and on, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your church attendance in light of this command from Scripture:

  • If the primary reason you’re not attending church now is that your own church is closed, consider a friendly, loving chat with your pastor about his thoughts on the possibility of opening back up in some way, even if only partially. You can also check around and see if any other doctrinally sound local churches are meeting. If you find one, hang out with them until yours opens back up. Family is family, and you need the fellowship, teaching, and encouragement. Get to know the “cousins” down the street.
  • Are all the doctrinally sound churches in your area shut down due to government regulations and that’s the main reason you’re not going? Find another way to meet together with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Get on the phone with the members of your Sunday School class or a few others you know from church and plan to meet together for worship, prayer, and Bible study at your house, the park, wherever you can gather. I realize your local government may frown upon that. Governments all over the world have been prohibiting Christians from meeting together for 2000 years, and they meet anyway, underground. Looks like it might be our turn. Prayerfully consider whether it might be time to start walking out “we must obey God rather than men” in your context.
  • Perhaps it’s legitimate health concerns for yourself or your family that is keeping you away from the Lord’s house. Listen, I’m not a doctor, so I’m not qualified to dispense medical advice. All I can say is, check back in with your doctor (not the internet – your personal doctor) and ask if there are any new or different precautions you could take that would make going to church or gathering with a few others possible. Prayerfully and wisely weigh the potential health risks against the very real spiritual damage that occurs when you don’t gather with the Body.
  • Finally, take some time alone in prayer with the Lord and carefully and honestly examine your heart and your motives. Is the real reason you’re staying away from church laziness or an ungodly fear that stems from refusing to trust God? Only you can answer that. If you find that those are the actual reasons you haven’t been going to church, repent, and get your posterior back in the pew this Sunday.

God gave the command for the Body to gather knowing it would cost many Christians their lives and their freedom down through the years. But He gave that command anyway. That should tell us how utterly crucial it is for us not to neglect meeting together – out of obedience to Him, and for our own good.

2.
Realize that the rules have changed

There used to be a general sense of consistency, fair play, and “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” logic in America.

That’s gone, and we need to get used to it.

As I write this, I could throw a rock out the window and hit a dozen tweets, articles, and podcasts decrying the hypocrisy and inconsistency of liberals. I’ve remarked on it myself. How there is one set of rules for them, but another set of rules for others, whether we’re talking about governors having Thanksgiving dinner with their extended families after telling you not to, or liberal evangelicals supporting BLM riots while decrying peaceful conservative protests and church gatherings. And they have absolutely no shame about their double standards.

Don’t expect that to change. Stand for what’s right, keep pointing out hypocrisy, but don’t expect people who support torturing babies in the womb to death and sexually abusing children via genital mutilation surgery to suddenly have an attack of conscience about holding themselves to one (or no) standard, and holding everybody else to another. They don’t care one whit about being fair and consistent – especially toward Christians. And if we keep expecting them to, it’s going to drive us mad.

These people are depraved, and this is spiritual warfare. Believers are unwelcome trespassers on the Devil’s playground, and he doesn’t play fair.

3.
Expect betrayal

Give the gospels a good study again, keeping a special eye on Jesus’ enemies. Who were they? What positions did they hold? What tactics did they use? What was the real reason they wanted to destroy Him? When you have the answers to those questions, you’ll better understand who your real enemies are, and why they’ll turn on you when you least expect it.

Who was it who wanted to destroy – kill – Jesus for speaking the truth? Not the Roman government. It was the powerful and influential “church leaders” of Jesus’ day, the scribes and Pharisees. It was they who pursued Jesus, made false allegations against Him, and cajoled the government into executing Him because they wanted to preserve the position, power, and wealth they maintained by sleeping with, and fearing, the Roman enemy

If we let [Jesus] go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.”

John 11:48-50

And who was it who betrayed Jesus into the hands of those bent on His destruction? His closest of friends and protégés – Judas. Judas, who, for the price of his greed, would give Jesus the kiss of a brother while thrusting a traitor’s knife into His back.

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

Matthew 26:14-16

A servant is no greater than his master. If this is how “God’s people” treated Jesus, we can expect no less. Expect to be betrayed by those closest to you- a brother, a friend, a cherished member of your church family. Expect false teachers and influential evangelical leaders to cozy up to governmental leaders so they can hang on to their multi-million dollar “ministries,” minions, and mansions. Expect them to make sacrificial lambs of true sheep and shepherds. After all, better that one, or a hundred, or thousands of genuine Believers should die than that their nation or way of life should perish.

Those we hold dear will turn on us. Those we thought we could trust with our lives will deliver us up.

4.
Count the cost

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 10: 37-39

Count the cost, Jesus said. When He spoke these words, Jesus meant them – and His audience understood them – literally, not metaphorically. A cross wasn’t bearing up under insults on social media. It was a cross. Rough-hewn wood that real human beings were nailed to (after a thorough flogging, of course) to hang on for hours or days until they succumbed to one of the most agonizing deaths imaginable. “That’s your future if you follow Me,” He said to them – and to us.

Is staying true to Jesus worth losing your job…your closest loved ones…your freedom…your health…your dignity…your home and possessions…even your life? When you sing “I Surrender All” do you actually mean it? All? Do you love Jesus more? If you’ve never taken the time to sit down and seriously think about whether or not you’d follow Jesus all the way to a cross, do it now.

Count the cost, because the cost is a cross.

5.
Embrace suffering

If you believe in your heart that robustly and unashamedly following Jesus is worth any cost, be prepared to suffer for it. Yet know that what man means for hurt and humiliation, Christ means for honor and high regard.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:10-12

and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 

Acts 5:40-41

Suffering for the name and sake of Christ is an honor.

6.
Know your Bible

When oppressors want to stamp out an ideology – like Christianity – that threatens their agenda, the first thing they do is quash speech about that ideology. And then they come for the books.

Over the last few years, how many times have you heard of Christians getting in some sort of trouble for sharing the gospel? For refusing to call a “he” a “she” or a “she” a “he”? For saying homosexuality is a sin? For declining to “repent” of racism they haven’t committed?

We’re already seeing the suppression of speech. The written word is next on the chopping block. Bibles will be confiscated and disposed of. Publishing houses that produce Bibles and other Christian materials will be shut down. Big tech will de-platform Bible apps, Christian podcasts, Christian bloggers, and all other forms of doctrinally sound Christian media.

And we’ll probably even see something worse: the powers that be changing the written word of God to fit their own agenda. How easy would it be for someone in power to stroll through the back door of your Bible app and begin changing, adding, or deleting whole verses and passages until the “Bible” says what they want it to say? Think that kind of thing could never happen here? It’s already happening in China.

Make sure you have a good, reliable, hard copy (the kind with paper pages) translation of the Bible on hand. (You might even want to start stockpiling them to quietly give away when owning God’s Word becomes illegal.) Study it forward, backward, and inside out until you know what it says so well you could spot a modification a mile away. Memorize it. Because they can take away the copies in our hands, but they can’t touch the Word hidden in our hearts.

7.
Believe God

Pressing on in the face of all these daunting circumstances would be impossible if God were not who He is. But because of all that He is, we can hope in Him and endure anything that comes our way.

When you don’t know what to do, He says: Trust Me. I’ll give you wisdom and guide you.

When you have to do hard things, He says: I’ll strengthen you and help you.

When you’re weary from fighting the good fight, He says: I’ll give you rest.

When you’re afraid, He says: Fear not. I am with you.

With our pampered lifestyle of freedom and ease, many of us have never experienced a moment in which our only option – for provision, for protection, for help – was to cry out to God and trust Him to take care of us. I daresay, in the days ahead, those moments will come with increasing frequency. And that’s not a bad thing.

Because God loves you. He cares for you. He can be trusted. You can depend on Him.

What’s coming our way next? It’s hard to know exactly, but we can see the handwriting of persecution and trials on the wall. So gather with the Body and encourage each other. Be wise to the ways of the enemy. Ready yourself for betrayal and suffering. Know God’s Word. Trust God to carry you through.

Because Christ’s return is drawing near. It’ll be here before we know it. And we can endure ’til then.

Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds: June 9, 2020

 

Here are a few of my favorite online finds…

 

“Behind the storyline of Scripture is the story of how God, in his providence, gave his words to us. When God spoke, he ensured that it would be preserved through a process of writing, collecting, copying, translating, and printing. After thousands of years, the Scripture that began with the breath of God now comes to us in the Book that is worthy of our supreme trust.” Check out this fascinating article from Dirk Jongkind, How We Got the Bible: The Great Story of Sacred Scripture.

 

 

Here’s an informative and helpful infographic from Crossway, How do you read the Bible? “When do you read the Bible? How often? What portions of Scripture do you tend to gravitate toward, and are there particular extra-biblical resources you use alongside your Bible to help you process and study it? We surveyed over 6,000 people to learn about Bible study habits. In some cases, the results were quite convicting.”

 

Parents of older kids, do you have a prodigal- a child who has chosen worldliness over godliness, sin over the Savior? Hey, About Your Prodigal by our friend Michael Coughlin over at Things Above Us will bring you a great deal of peace and comfort as he walks us through the Scriptures that show us how to cope, and that God knows what it’s like to be the Father of prodigals too.

 

 

Freebie time! The good people at Monergism “believe the Church should have open access to Scripturally/Theologically sound edifying Christian literature and that one need not be held back from having a significant Christian library because of cost.” And so they offer us 575 Free eBooks Listed Alphabetically by Author. That should give all of us plenty to read for a while!

 

Here’s a brief, yet instructive video from WordBoard on Mark 2:20, What Is the Point of Fasting?


The resources listed above are not to be understood as a blanket endorsement for the websites on which they appear, or of everything the author or subject of the resource says or does. I do not endorse any person, website, or resource that conflicts with Scripture or the theology outlined in the Statement of Faith and Welcome tabs at the top of this page.
Basic Training, Evangelism

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: The Great Commission

Originally published June 15, 2018

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

Have you ever heard the phrase “The Great Commission“? Do you know what it means? If not, you’re not alone…


photo courtesy of barna.com

The Barna Group recently conducted a study asking churchgoers if they had previously “heard of the Great Commission.” In their report, 51% of Churchgoers Don’t Know of the Great Commission the results of the study were summarized thusly:

“…half of U.S. churchgoers (51%) say they do not know this term. It would be reassuring to assume that the other half who know the term are also actually familiar with the passage known by this name, but that proportion is low (17%). Meanwhile, ‘the Great Commission’ does ring a bell for one in four (25%), though they can’t remember what it is. Six percent of churchgoers are simply not sure whether they have heard this term ‘the Great Commission’ before.”

Now, if you know anything about statistics, you know how important it is to structure your questions carefully and get a representative sampling of the population you’re surveying in order to get the most accurate results. What does “churchgoer” mean? Is it possible people have never heard the term “The Great Commission” simply because churches don’t use this particular phrase any more? It’s important to take things like this into consideration because it affects the results of the survey. (You can find out more about Barna’s structuring process for this study at the end of the article linked above.) But even if the numbers of the Barna survey aren’t exact, I think it’s safe to say there are a lot of people out there in churchland who aren’t familiar with The Great Commission.

Just for fun, let’s see what the results would be if we surveyed readers of my blog:

The Great Commission refers to some of Jesus’ final words to the disciples before His ascension and is cited from Matthew 28:18-20:

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

With these words Jesus commissioned the eleven remaining disciples to go out into the world and carry on His mission. Since every Christian is a disciple, or follower, of Christ, this is our commission from Him as well. Let’s examine what it says.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.
Before commissioning his disciples, Jesus reminds them that everything He’s about to say is founded on and imbued with His authority. Jesus alone has the divine authority to establish the church and to dictate the way in which His church is to be set up and to grow.

We 21st century Christians would do well to keep forefront in our minds and hearts the authority of Christ over His church. There is no need for churches to “cast vision” or come up with mission statements. Christ is the head of the church and has already given us His vision for it. The Great Commission is His mission statement for the church.

Go therefore
“Therefore” in this little phrase refers back to what Christ has just said about His authority. In other words, because all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me, I am telling you to go.

“Go” is a very generic verb in English. We can “go” into the kitchen or we can “go” to the moon or we can “go” out and conquer the world. We can “go” anywhere from our own personal microcosm to the edges of the known universe. And that is the same sense the Greek word πορεύω captures: as you “go your way,” as you “go forth,” as you “walk”, as you “pursue the journey on which [you have] entered.” Wherever life takes us, whether it’s across the street or across the world, we go as ambassadors of Christ, carrying the good news of the gospel with us.

All nations
Revelation 7:9 tells us that God will save people from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” So that’s who we share the gospel with as we go our way. Everybody. Regardless of where they’re from, what they look like, or how they talk. We are not to withhold the gospel from anyone, and we’re to make sure the church is proactively carrying the gospel to every populated geographical location on earth.

Make disciples…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you
Notice the language Jesus uses here. He doesn’t say “make converts” or “make Christians”. He says “make disciples.”

Think about what the disciples did while Jesus was on earth. First, they answered His call to follow Him. Then, they began the journey of following Him wherever He went. He trained and equipped them day and night. They loved Him and worshiped Him. They imitated the things He did and said. They carried on His work after He ascended. Jesus is saying to the disciples, and to us, “Replicate yourselves. Make more like you.”

That means that the Great Commission starts with sharing the gospel with a lost person, but it doesn’t end there. There’s more to our mission than just evangelism. We are to train and equip Christians to follow Jesus daily, to love and worship Him, to imitate Him in obedience, and to carry on His work.

Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
After salvation, baptism is the first step a new Christian takes on the road of discipleship. It is not optional. Baptism publicly identifies a person – to the church and to the world – as a Christian, and is a personal pledge to follow Christ obediently all the days of one’s life.

Being baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” carries several layers of meaning.

💧Again, pay careful attention to the language in this phrase. Jesus does not say “in the nameS” – plural. He says, “in the name” – singular. This is a boldly Trinitarian statement directly from two of its members: Jesus, who spoke these words to the disciples, and the Holy Spirit, who breathed them out through the pen of Matthew. This is God Himself telling us who He is. Jesus spoke these words to good Jewish boys who were born and bred on the shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” There was to be no confusion for new Believers back then, Believers today, or to the onlooking world, as to who these Christians are following. They are not following three different gods. They are following the one true God in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – the whole ball of wax.

💧Names meant far more in biblical times than they do to us today. We see God changing people’s names – Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, etc. – when He commissioned them for a new mission or phase of life. Being baptized “in the name of” the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit echoes that tradition of God changing people’s names. You are no longer your own, you are Christ’s. You are no longer “Sinner”, you are “Saint”. You no longer go forth in your own name, but in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as their emissary, endowed with the power and authority of God to live for Him and to proclaim the gospel to a lost and dying world.

💧Because Christians are, by definition, Trinitarians, and because baptizing a Believer is commissioning her to go forth into the world as a representative of Christ, it’s appropriate for pastors to take this verse literally when performing a baptism and verbalize its words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Basic Training: Baptism

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
What a sweet promise, both to the disciples and to us today. Obediently following Christ in our daily lives, sharing the gospel, and making disciples can be lonely, exhausting, and discouraging at times. But we don’t have to do it alone, and we don’t have to do it in the flesh. Christ is with us and He knows all too well how hard it can be. God has given the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower Believers to live for Him and to carry out The Great Commission.

Additional Resources

What is the Great Commission? at Got Questions

The Great Commission by John MacArthur

The Great Commission by Burk Parsons

Evangelism at Theology Gals

Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds ~ ALL THE FREEBIES! ~ April 14, 2020

 

Here are a few of my favorite online finds…and this time, they’re all FREE!

Scripture TypeHave you worked all the jigsaw puzzles in the house and watched all the movies and listened to all the podcasts? How do you feel about coloring or painting? Scripture Type is offering lots of their beautiful Bible verses and Christian quotes in coloring page format (you can also download the full color originals as wallpaper/lock screen for your computer, tablet, or phone). Great for keeping the kids busy too!

Tell you what – let’s make this even more fun. You download one of the coloring pages and get crafty with it – color it, paint it, embroider it on a pillow, paint it on your car…whatever…and send me a decent quality picture of it, and I’ll feature it on my social media pages (let me know if it’s OK to include your name in the post). I can’t wait to see your creativity!

 

  But if you still have a hankering to watch a movie, you might consider giving RedeemTV a try. It is basically a “Christian” and family friendly Netflix (and yes, it’s really free!). I say “Christian” because, just having done a brief scroll through, I can already see that some of their offerings aren’t going to meet the biblical definition of Christianity. But I did notice several movies that look promising (I’ve watched some of the biographies of the Reformers, which were good, and I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews of the animated Pilgrim’s Progress movie.). You’ll need to have your discernment radar on high alert and ditch anything that doesn’t match up with rightly handled Scripture.

 

Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church (9Marks: Building Healthy Churches): Onwuchekwa, John

Or how about a good book to read? Check out John Onwuchekwa’s contribution to 9Marks’ Building Healthy Churches series: Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church.

And if you’d like to write a review of this book (or another one) as a guest post for the blog, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat about it.

 

Trustworthy Bible Teaching and Discipleship Resources

Ligonier is going all out with the freebies! They are offering their entire library of teaching series available to stream and the study guides that accompany many of these series free “until at least June 30”. Dig in and get what’s probably the content equivalent of a seminary degree during quarantine!

 

How were people saved in the Old Testament? Ever wondered about that?


The resources listed above are not to be understood as a blanket endorsement for the websites on which they appear, or of everything the author or subject of the resource says or does. I do not endorse any person, website, or resource that conflicts with Scripture or the theology outlined in the Statement of Faith and Welcome tabs at the top of this page.
Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds ~ March 3, 2020

Here are a few of my favorite online finds…

“Why is the doctrine of justification by faith alone so important? Luther said that sola fide is ‘the article upon which the church stands or falls.’ As R. C. Sproul puts it, ‘We are either justified by a righteousness that is in us or by a righteousness that is apart from us. There is no third way.’ This short work surveys the main tenets of the doctrine of justification in Roman Catholicism and evangelicalism.”

Enjoy reading this FREE e-book from R. C. SproulJustified by Faith Alone.

Have you ever wondered where Paul’s wife was when he was gallivanting all over the world preaching the gospel? Denny Burk explores  Paul’s marital status through Scripture in this excellent article, Was the apostle Paul married? Yes, he was. Here’s how we know. (Also included: the audio to Denny’s sermon on this topic, in case you’d like to listen.

Some of God’s attributes are communicable and some are incommunicable. Which of God’s attributes do humans, made in the imago dei (image of God) possess, and which attributes belong only to God? Check out this helpful resources from CARM (Christian Apologetics & Resource Ministry), What are the communicable and incommunicable attributes of God?

The Master's Seminary“By God’s help may we not retreat from the fight for truth. May we be all the more invigorated by a love for our Lord, His truth, and His people. And may this commitment be evident to all as we discern with precision, humility, and sorrow.” Reagan Rose has a wonderful article about exercising love when practicing discernment over at TMS’s blog: The Danger of Loveless Discernment.

What’s the difference between Baptists and Presbyterians and Lutherans and Methodists and all the other Protestant denominations out there? Dr. Gregory Wills of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary explains the basic similarities and differences in What’s the Difference between Christian Denominations?.


The resources listed above are not to be understood as a blanket endorsement for the websites on which they appear, or of everything the author or subject of the resource says or does. I do not endorse any person, website, or resource that conflicts with Scripture or the theology outlined in the Statement of Faith and Welcome tabs at the top of this page.