Posted tagged ‘Paul’

4 Evangelistic Motivations for Paul: The Prospect of Eternity

February 1, 2011

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently shared with my church family how we are to be working together with God on mission (2 Cor. 6:1).  In that message, I laid out four evangelistic motivations from 2 Cor. 5.  The first evangelistic motivation for Paul is the prospect of eternity.

The Prospect of Eternity

In the first nine verses of 2 Corinthians 5, Paul describes our earthly bodies as tents and compares them to a building “not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”  Just a few verses later, Paul talks about  being “home in the body” and “home with the Lord.”  Clearly, Paul has eternity in view, and compares this life as but a temporary matter compared to eternity with God in our heavenly dwelling.

What are the evangelistic implications of having the prospects of eternity before you?  How does that affect how you view people?  As we teach our children, God gave us souls that will never die, though this tent (earthly body) is destroyed.  At some point, the pegs will loosen, the violent storm of death with overtake this earthly tent.  What will happen then?  As a tentmaker himself, Paul knew well of the frailty and temporary nature of a tent.  Even as he worked in his trade, with each new tent, Paul no doubt had on his mind the lives of men and women around him who did not know God.

It is very easy to go through the day with little thought about eternity.  We are caught up in the moment, rarely ever with the ability to have a sustained reflection on how this day fits in the scheme of our lifetime, much less eternity.  But when we have the prospect of eternity in view, we look at people differently.  We don’t look at them and see rich or poor, black or white, friendly or mean.  We look at them as saved or lost, forgiven or condemned, adopted or rebels.  And when this happens, eternal realities invade our thoughts and motivations so that we are left with yearning and burden for the “tent city” (if I may use that illustration) soon facing the prevailing the winds of death.

So the first motivation of Paul as seen in 2 Cor. 5:1-9 is the prospect of eternity in light of our human frailty. People think they are invincible; God says they are but a breath.  People think their lives have no eternal consequence and therefore should live for the moment; Christians feel the weight of eternity and plead for their souls of those who cannot plead for themselves.  People want to have conversations that settle on the surface; Christians settle only for the gospel penetrating hearts to the very core of their being.  And this because God has told us that being home in this tent is not our final dwelling place.  We are pilgrims, ambassadors, citizens of another kingdom–a kingdom that is established in the hearts of men when the eternal truths of the gospel are embraced by those who have found eternal life in the death-defeating death of Jesus Christ.

Fellow believer, our conversations ought to be singed with the prospect of eternity.  If we have nothing weightier to say than what people hear on television or read in the papers, then we are only driving the stakes of their earthly tent into the very soil in which their body will lay in judgment.  It is a wake up call for us who face a world making their bed in the deception of their self-determination.  May we who long to be “at home with the Lord find our usefulness in working together with God in bringing sinners safely home by way of the cross.

Working Together with God

January 31, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I preached a message entitled “Working Together with God.”  I have long enjoyed meditating on 2 Corinthians 5, but unfortunately, my reading typically ended with 2 Cor. 5:21.  It is the next verse that has arrested my thinking of late, and as you probably know, there were no chapter divisions originally in the biblical text.  The following verse reads:

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 6:1).

Is it not an awesome thing to think about–that God would somehow allow us to partner with him in working out his purposes of redemption as His ambassadors?!  I have had the privilege of working with some amazing people in my life, but everything changes in perspective when I realize that I have been called to join the one who works out all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11) and perfectly completes every good work He begins (Phil. 1:6).

As Christians, this unique lifetime privilege is sealed with the unfailing promise already fulfilled and purchased by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Because of that, Jesus does not simply leave us with a plan of salvation, but he provides us the power of salvation in the gospel (Rom. 1:16) which, when spoken, calls forth dead people to new life.  We have been given the protection and provision that God is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20).  We have before us the perspective that Christ will build His church (Matt. 16:18), and nothing, absolutely nothing, can thwart the omnipotent voice of our Shepherd who calls out His own by name (John 10:27-28).

We are working with God in the most important, eternally significant thing in the whole world, and this work warrants not only the sweat of our brow but the sacrifice of our lives.  Apparently, it was a concern for Paul that the Corinthian believers would receive the grace of God in vain, and context leads us to believe that a principle way of determining this is through their participation (or lack thereof) in working with God as those entrusted with the message and ministry of reconciliation.  Paul was a great example that the grace he received was not useless:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1 Cor. 15:10).

Unlike anything else, the gospel of God’s grace produces laborers who endure and persevere, not because of inner will-power or self-determination, but because they have operating within them the same power that raised Jesus from the dead bringing renewal and abiding hope.

In my message a couple of weeks ago, I discovered four evangelistic motivations in 2 Cor. 5 that help us not to receive the grace of God in vain but rather spur us onward in our “working together with God”.  In the coming days, I hope to share them with you as an encouragement in your efforts to make Christ known as one entrusted with the one message capable to raise the dead, change the world, and satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart.

Where in the world are the Christians?

December 2, 2010

So check it.  “The brothers” took Paul by night from the mad mob rioting at the house of Jason in Thessalonica (Acts 17:10).  Surely that was a rather traumatic moment.  This landed him in Berea where Paul, undeterred by the riots in the previous city, kept doing what he had been doing–preaching Christ.  The mob catches up with Paul in Berea so “the brothers” send him off again “as far as Athens,” and there Paul finds himself waiting for Silas and Timothy to show up (Acts 17:14).

One the one hand, persecution drove the mission.  On the other hand, “the brothers” executed the mission.  On every account, Paul was constrained by the Spirit who testified to him to expect imprisonment and affliction in every city” (Acts 20:23).   In the middle of all this was a man possessed by Christ, stubbornly committed to preaching the gospel at all costs, and prepared to fight the good fight of faith.

Apparently Athens was not on the agenda. The brothers took him “as far as Athens”, and, as Luke explains, he is there simply waiting for Timothy and Silas to show up.  What do you do while you wait? Check your Twitter updates?  Play video games on your iPod?  Listen to your last iTunes download?  For Paul, his waiting meant listening, learning, and leading others to Christ.

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A Snapshot of Gospel Centrality

September 25, 2009

If in Christ we have hope in this life only,
we are of all people most to be pitied. – 1 Cor. 15:19

This little verse has massive gospel implications.  Paul had built his entire life on the gospel.  His every ambition has for the advancement of the gospel.  The consequences of his commitment to the gospel resulted in suffering, imprisonment, estrangement, and “the loss of all things.”  The value he placed on the gospel was “of first importance” such he determined to nothing than”Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).  When it came to his relationships, he called the Corinthians his “children” and him their father?  How did this relationship come about? “Through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15).  He had no roots or identity in culture or tradition that was not shaped by the gospel.  Therefore, to the Jews or to the Gentiles or to the weak, he endeavored to become like them that the gospel might be embraced and that he might “share in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:19-23).

Paul was a man who was obsessed with the gospel of Jesus Christ and centered his life on its glorious realities.  His relationships could not exist apart from the gospel.  His efforts would not be possible except for the power of the gospel.  His sufferings would not make sense except for the vindication of the gospel.  His joy and satisfaction in Jesus despite hardship and affliction was fueled by the ongoing work of the gospel.  In short, if the gospel was not true and Jesus not raised, then everything in his life was a sham–an utterly pitiable sight.

The radical nature of the gospel caused Paul to live a radical life that confounded the skeptics and condemned the superficial followers of Jesus.  If one’s life could make sense and seem plausible or normal apart from the gospel and the power of Jesus’ resurrection, you were at odds with the gospel tradition established by Paul and His companions.  The gospel must central.  It cannot be optional.  Yet can it be said of us that our life is so wrapped up in the gospel that should you take it’s reality from us, our lives should most of all be pitied?  How thorough is its work?  To what degree is our identity, mission, significance, purpose, and relationships defined and shaped by the gospel?

If we had hoped in this life only is to eat, drink, and be merry–to live a normal life, the good life–just like everyone else who has given a cultural hat tip to Jesus but have not experienced gospel transformation, then what light have we to offer in a world of darkness or what salt to pour out in a world of decay?  The hope and confidence we have in the gospel should plunge the depths of our soul and surface in satisfied lives in Jesus who are sent for His glory.  The snapshot of gospel centrality in Paul’s life should be a reminder of our need for long-exposure in beholding the face of Jesus and becoming like Him in all ways, in all things, for one goal–the worship of Jesus.

Missional Prayer Compilation and PDF

December 17, 2008

Here are the links from this past mini-series on Missional Prayer:

1.  Introductory Thoughts
2.  Jesus
3.  Early Church (Acts)
4.  Paul
5.  Concluding Thoughts

Anyone who would be interested in downloading a PDF (11 pages) of all these articles can do so by clicking here.

Missional Prayer: Paul

December 15, 2008

In the second installment on missional prayer, I discussed how the early church in the book of Acts understood the discipline of prayer in relation to the mission and progress of the gospel.  While Acts provides us with a glimpse in the journeys of the Apostle Paul and how prayer impacted his mission, his letters reveal a powerful exchange of intercession and request among the churches wherein he labored. before his mission began, you might recall the instruction Jesus gave Ananias, which was to “look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying” (Acts 9:11).

Although his name changed, the fact that he was praying did not.  His exhortations to prayer was everywhere.   To the Romans, Paul encourages them to “be constant in prayer” (Rom. 12:2); to the Ephesians, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Eph. 6:18); to the Philippians, “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6); to the Thessalonians, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17); and to the Colossians, “continue steadfastly in prayer” (Col. 4:2).  It is evident that the call to fervent, continuous prayer was expected among all believer everywhere, and in no less than five churches, missional prayer was demonstrated in the life of Paul.  Let’s consider his letters to the Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians.

1.  Rome

In the introduction of his letter to the Romans, Paul writes “that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you” (Rom. 1:9-10). His desire to come to them not only was a cause of continual intercession for the Roman believers, but also an appeal for their prayers.  Toward the close of his letter, he writes,

“I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company” (Rom. 15:30-32).

Paul’s intercession and the grounds of his appeal to the Romans for pray was for God’s will in his deliverance for furthering the mission and service to the saints.  In a letter so filled with the meat and marrow of the gospel, like book ends, these references show Paul’s heart for the mission through prayer.
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