Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15

About Me

I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Jesus' Cry of Forgiveness

You can learn a lot about someone by looking at their last words. Have you ever done a study of the last words of famous people in history before their death? In someone’s last words you can find out what was important to them as well as key insights into their character. This is certainly true concerning the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We receive a marvelous glimpse into His heart when we explore the seven last sayings He uttered with His final breaths while hanging on the cross.

The first of these statements was Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. Take a moment and let this sink in. Jesus here is asking God to forgive the ones who hated Him. Those who mocked Him. Who flogged His back. Who spit upon Him. Who placed the crown of thorns forcefully on His head. Those who nailed Him to the cross. Who were responsible for the agonizing pain that He is experiencing.

The Lord of glory is asking God to do for the greatest act of sin in all of history what we struggle to do for small offenses towards us. We have a hard time letting go of the hurts caused to us by others, don’t we? To forgive those who wrong us. Yet, that is exactly what Jesus prays that God the Father would do for His tormentors here. Jesus is doing what He has called us to do when He instructed us in the Sermon on the Mount to forgive those who wrong us and to pray for our enemies. This should serve as an encouragement for us to follow His leading.

Notice that Jesus states they do not know what they are doing. He is not saying that they were completely ignorant that what they were doing was wrong. Just that they did not understand how great of a crime they were guilty of. That they were murdering the very Son of God. A sinner needs the Holy Spirit to open their blind eyes to recognize the enormity of their sins against God.

At this very moment on the cross, Jesus is ensuring that God will answer this prayer for forgiveness as He experiences the full weight of God’s wrath for the sins of those who will look to Him alone for their salvation. That the holy God will be able to forgive them as Jesus takes the punishment for their sins. He will no longer hold their sins against them as Jesus has turned away God’s wrath their sins brought upon them.

We find Jesus’ prayer answered with the thief on the cross as well as the Roman Centurion I believe that Brother Bob will be speaking about later as both received the forgiveness that Jesus requests here. We see the prayer answered in the book of Acts in the great number who have God’s forgiveness on the day of Pentecost as they respond in repentance to Peter’s sermon. Many among that crowd were held responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion. Who may have called for Him to be crucified. Who joined in the taunts and ridicule that day.

And let me point out to you that this is a limited prayer. It is only for those who are in Christ by God’s grace alone through faith alone. It is not for those who remain in their sins without repentance. We learn in John 17 that Jesus only prays for the ones that the Father gives to Him. Not for those of the world. This is the great High Priest praying for His people as He is offering Himself up as their sacrifice. The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 who poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.

If you are a sinner who is looking to Jesus alone to reconcile you to God, take heart. You have forgiveness because of Jesus’ prayer for you based on His sacrificial death. It doesn’t matter how great of a sinner you are or what type of a sinner you are. As the hymn rightly says, “Jesus is merciful. Jesus will save.” And if you don’t know Jesus personally as your Lord and Savior, why not come to Him today to experience the forgiveness that He prays for and that He laid down His life for. This prayer can be for you if you just look to Him.

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Encouragements to Evangelism

It appears today that many Christians in the American church are very lax about sharing the gospel of Christ. As a former pastor of mine put it: so many of us Christians are so excited that we have our place at the table that we just sit there content and do not bother to go out and invite others also. Or as Keith Green sang several years ago, the church is just “asleepin the light” while people are sinking and drowning in their sins. I must confess that I far too often fail to take advantages of the opportunities that the Lord brings my way. I am continuing to work at being more intentional with sharing my faith with others and I want to help you with that as well. So, to help us all with our important role that the Lord has given us, let's look at seven encouragements for us to tell others about Jesus. 

Jesus' final words to His disciples were: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20). The very first step in making a disciple is to tell them what God has done for them in Christ if they repent of their sins and place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ ALONE for their salvation. One thing that should motivate us to go out and share the good news is the fact that Christ commanded us to do so. According to Jesus "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15). If we are serious about our love for the Lord, we will want to uphold and live out this important commandment to honor Christ and bring God glory. Making disciples cannot be an option for us but a necessity. In fact, according to Jesus it is our job description. It is the very reason that we are still left on this earth. Think about it. Why doesn’t God immediately take a believer to glory to be with Him for all eternity? Because He desires to use him or her to share the gospel message with others so that they may be saved as well. We have a very important job! Want to fulfill the very purpose that God has for you? Be more intentional in telling others about Jesus and His saving work on the cross.

The joy of having a relationship with Jesus Christ is so great that we should have no problem sharing that joy with others. It should make such a difference in our lives that we would not be able to not share. After all, why would we not want to share about how Christ, while we were still yet sinners and enemies of God due to our sins, took our sins upon Himself, the innocent being viewed as guilty, and suffered God's wrath on the cross, the separation from God which we were due to experience for all eternity? All this so that we would be considered righteous instead of the guilty sinners which we are. Not only that but after having defeated sin,  that Jesus rose three days later to conquer death and give us assurance that all those who place their trust in Him will be raised to eternal life with God as well. This is wonderful news that should be easier to share than who won the last sports event or the latest gossip in the neighborhood. Peter and John are wonderful examples of those who could not keep their joy to themselves. Upon being commanded by the Sanhedrin to no longer teach or preach in the name of Jesus, they respond, "we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20). They could not keep quiet about Jesus! Being placed in jail a few times did not damper their zeal to share their joy. The same joy that propelled them to talk so much about Jesus should also lead us to evangelize more.

Take a moment and think about your family members and closest friends who do not know the Lord. Do you realize that without repentance and giving their life to Christ that they will go to hell as punishment for their sins? You will not have the pleasure of seeing them in eternity if they do not accept Christ. Our love for our unsaved family and friends should propel us to pray for God to open up their hearts to receive the gospel and give us opportunities to tell them about Christ. Paul had a great love for his fellow Jews and longed for their salvation. "Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation" (Romans 10:1). In fact, it was this desire and concern for the Jews that led him to increase his ministry to the Gentiles, knowing that God had opened salvation to them in order to spur the Jews to jealousy. "But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them" (Romans 11:13-14). Do you care about your family and friends? Then warn them of the wrath to come and share the good news of what God has done to save them from it if they look away from themselves to His Son and His work.

A big motivation for evangelism should be the simple fact that evangelism is a privilege. We do not deserve to share in any part of God's work. God does not need us to tell others about Him but He chooses to use us. He could easily do the work without us but in His great grace, He includes us in His missionary endeavor. One of the biggest blessings we have as a believer is the ability to serve God in different ways. Out of gratitude to be granted to be the ones whose feet "bring good news of good things" (Romans 10:15), we should go out and gladly do the privilege of our job to evangelize recognizing like Paul that God has considered us faithful, though we were the chief of sinners, to be put into service for Him all because of His mercy (1 Timothy 1:12-16).

One part of the "Great Commission" we usually forget about is Jesus' last statement: "and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). We are not evangelizing on our own but Christ goes with us. If you are nervous about sharing your faith in Christ, don't fear but trust God and seek Him for the words in which you are to say. This is what the apostles did. At the start of the persecution of the early church, they gathered together and prayed that God would "grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence" (Acts 4:29). The Lord answered their prayer as vs. 31 points out and the rest of the narrative in Acts demonstrates. God granted them the boldness to go all over "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). God gave them the confidence that they needed to proclaim the word unto death (Stephen) and through more imprisonments (Peter). This is not a task that we have to do alone. We have the great Evangelist Himself alongside of us who will equip us with all that we need to get the job done. We just need to follow Him and do it!
It is important to understand that we are only responsible for delivering the message of the gospel and not for its reception or rejection. Scripture is clear that God is the One who works in a sinner's heart to "draw" them to Christ (John 6:44). He is the One who shines the "Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" in people's hearts (2 Corinthians 4:6) and makes those dead in their trespasses alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5). Paul preached the message in Philippi but the Lord was the one who opened Lydia's heart "to respond to the things spoken by Paul" (Acts 16:14). We are to be those messengers to bring the good news (Romans 10:13-15) to all of those we come in contact with, realizing that the Holy Spirit is the One who uses the message to "pierce" people's hearts (Acts 2:37), draw them to Christ (John 6:44), and bring them to repentance (Romans 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:25). We are like the sower in one of Jesus’ parables who sows seed in the soil and then goes to sleep, resting while the seed sprouts and grows by itself (Mark 4:26-29).

How is this an important motivation? Recognizing this truth lets us know that we do not have to be perfect in our presentation of the message or that we have to manipulate someone to come to Christ. God can use the simplest presentations of the gospel to impact one's heart and change their life. We don't need to worry about how the person responds because that’s God’s job. He is the One who opens their hearts to hear the message and changes their hearts, bringing about their conversion. Realizing the fact that it is not based on our ability, we can focus more on getting the truth of the message right, knowing that the gospel is "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). God uses the gospel which we are to preach to penetrate the hard hearts of unbelievers. While we will not be held accountable for the results of our evangelizing, I do believe that God will hold us accountable for those opportunities He gave us to share His good news that we did not take. We just need to be faithful to God by following His leading for the opportunities He provides and to faithfully communicate the message.

The greatest desire for a Christian is to bring God glory and praise. To see Him exalted and lifted up in worship because He is worthy. When someone responds positively to the gospel message and comes to Christ with an attitude of repentance in faith, another worshiper is added to God’s kingdom. This means that God is receiving more praise by more people. The saints in glory will be rejoicing that those from every nation on earth will be bowing down before God in response to Who He is and what He has done. “And they sang the song of Moses, the bondservant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For all the nations will come and worship before You, For Your righteous acts have been revealed’ ” (Revelation 15:3-4). John Piper has put it well when he has said that worship ultimately is the goal of the Church. The very reason that evangelism and missions exist is because worldwide worship doesn’t at the moment (Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005). Our desire is to share the gospel so that God may bring many more into the kingdom and receive more praise from them as His kingdom grows. This should move us to have more of a global perspective, not only to be concerned about our unsaved neighbor right next to us but those across the ocean as well. How can we contribute to the spread of the gospel to them? Are there any missionaries that we can support or even a trip we can take to participate in that work? If we care about God’s glory in the accomplishment of His rescue mission of sinners, then these are questions we need to be asking.

I hope that you will examine your own life to see how well you are doing in sharing your faith in Christ with others as I continue to do so. If you realize that you have been lax in this area, take some time to see which of these motivations might be missing in your life and spend some time meditating on them. Let’s pray that God would work in our hearts to further motivate us to go out and have the privilege to live out His "Great Commission." We have a mission to reach a world lost and dying in sin with the greatest news of all time and no time to waste.

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!!!