In his final attempt to divert Jesus from his mission Satan took Jesus to a mountain top and revealed the kingdoms of this world in all their glory. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me” (Matt 4:8-10).
Satan was offering political and cultural power without the cross. Jesus can have everything he’s come for, without the horror of a shameful death for the sins of the world. The devil was offering him a way out. A painless road to victory.
Jesus answered, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’
What did Jesus choose instead? To worship the Lord his God, and serve him only. This worship goes beyond the singing of praises. This is the worship of a surrendered life. The worship of a Servant humbling himself and becoming obedient unto death. Even death on a cross.
Our enemy continues to divert God’s people from their mission with the offer of a kingdom without the cross. A mission without the gospel. Heaven on earth without repentance and faith in the crucified One.
But there is no kingdom without the King. No salvation without the Savior.
Jesus’ commission to his disciples was clear. This message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations (Luke 24:47). The core missionary task is to make disciples of the nations by going and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-20).
Through Christ we receive the power of the Holy Spirit to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Wherever the Word goes in the power of the Spirit, the fruit of our mission is disciples and churches (Acts 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20).
That’s the core missionary task. Don’t be distracted.
Acts has no purpose, no plot, no structure, and no history without suffering.
Ten years ago I was in Singapore having just left a restricted field somewhere in Asia. I had sought out a couple of guys named “Smith” with a lot of experience in church planting movements to help me make sense of what I was learning.
I will not forget this comment:
We've never seen a church planting movement without persecution.
Suffering and persecution go hand in hand with movements that multiply disciples and churches.
They are the unifying theme of the book of Acts. Without them the command to take the gospel to the ends of the world would never have been fulfilled.
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There shouldn't be any surprises — around the world, the Christian faith is growing fastest where levels of commitment are highest and populations are growing fastest.
The UK, Europe, Austalia, and to a lesser extent, Canada, are in trouble. In the western world, the US is the exception.
In August, Michelle and I travel to the US to be with our friends from Church Resource Ministries.
Ahead of the CRM worldwide conference, Sam Metcalf set the tone for the gathering in a letter. Here's part of what he wrote,
In the last year, along with our various leaders, I’ve sensed a shift from a focus on the “what and the “how” to a more profound question: “Why we do it.” I believe God has been gently, but firmly, drawing us together toward the grand scope and magnitude of that calling. He is graciously wooing us with his cosmic vision that stretches beyond time and space. This captivating “why” is succinctly captured in the following phrase:
...I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb (Rev 7:9:).
The ultimate expression and realization of the Kingdom of God is when the redemptive reign and rule of Jesus happens in the lives of people …when the Kingdom breaks in and the highest and most excellent of the created order—human beings—become committed followers of the King of the Kingdom. While there are certainly other essential manifestations of the Kingdom, this remains the ultimate biblical centerpiece of the mission of God. A phrase that I like to use to describe this priority is that "the Kingdom of God is never fully present unless people are becoming followers of the King."
This is what movement leaders do, they remind us of the why. Get that wrong and you drift into the missional fog.
I’m in Manchester for the Launch Europe event. My last engagement before flying out of London for Melbourne. I'm heading home after three years in Britain. Apologies to the readers of this blog and listeners to the podcast. With the move back home, a string of commitments and work on a new book, I’ve had to cut back on the blog and podcast.
I’ve been prompted to dive back in after news, as expected, that Australians have voted in favor of same-sex marriage. I’m not a cultural warrior. I’m not focused on saving Western civilization. My concern is the spread of the gospel, multiplying disciples and churches.
The world will do what the world does. And face the consequences. The great tragedy of this vote is how easily church leaders and ordinary believers forsake (or remain silent about) the clear teaching of the Scriptures.
The Anglican church in England has a leader who can’t say publicly whether same-sex sexual relations are right or wrong. He has endorsed a new transgender policy in Anglican schools. He has awarded an LGBT activist with the Thomas Cranmer Award for Worship. Cranmer was burnt at the stake rather than surrender his commitment to God’s Word.
These are not matters where we can agree to disagree. The teaching of Scripture is clear. Jesus was clear — you can choose to build your house on rock or sand. But you can't choose the consequences.
There is only one true church and that church is under the authority of God’s living Word and the Holy Spirit. The only way out of this morass is to return to being governed by the Word and the Spirit. It’s not easy in this cultural climate, but God gives grace for what he expects us to do. That’s the example Jesus set. He obeyed the Father regardless of the cost.
Any movement, church, individual believer, denomination, Christian organization that steps away from the safety and blessing of obedience, will face God’s redemptive judgment. He will defend his Word. He loves us that much.
Learning to obey what Jesus commanded is central to disciple making movements.
Yet some regard obedience based discipleship as the equivalent of introducing a Christian verison of sharia (Islamic law).
I'm working through Philipians at the movemnet with Gorden Fee, an outstanding NT scholar. In comments on Philippians 2:5-11 here's what he says about obedience and disicpleship
There is no genuine life in Christ that is not at the same time, by the power of the Holy Spirit, being regularly transformed into the likeness of Christ . A gospel of grace, which omits obedience, is not Pauline in any sense.
Life in Christ is a gift of grace that we can never earn. Life in Christ brings with it the power of the Holy Spirit resulting in being transformed from the inside out so that we bear his likeness.
Disciplehsip means learning to obey what Jesus commanded. One step at a time. Always one more step.