Living Behind Enemy Lines – The Lord of the Harvest

In the two previous articles in this series, Behind Enemy Lines – Situational Awareness and Understanding the Mission, we said that, as believers in Christ, we are living “behind enemy lines” and that as followers of Christ, it is our mission to share the Gospel and make disciples for the Kingdom of our Lord.  Now we’ll see how God provides all we need to accomplish our mission by:

  • Equipping the messenger,
  • Preparing hearts for the message, and
  • Connecting the heart to the message.

Equipping the Messenger.

“When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

Jesus was moved with a deep compassion for people, comparing the multitudes without a savior to helpless sheep without a shepherd (infantry squad without a squad leader).  The Holy Spirit of God, living inside the believer, will give us the same gut-wrenching compassion for our loved ones, friends, co-workers, comrades in battle, and even those who mistreat us.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

“When they (Jewish religious leaders and the Roman ‘feds’) saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

The Holy Spirit, who lives inside the believer, providing assurance, comfort and guidance, also provides power to be an effective witness to the gospel. Peter and John were common fishermen who hung out with Jesus for a few years, listening to His teaching. When the Holy Spirit came in power on Pentecost, the head knowledge became heart knowledge. They couldn’t help but talk about what they had seen and heard!

Preparing hearts for the message.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).

At the same time God is preparing messengers, He is busy preparing hearts to receive the most important message they will ever receive! It might be a family member,  friend or co-worker, or the soldier by your side in a firefight. Sometimes opportunities to share God’s message come knocking loudly at your door, but more often they just  “happen.”
I remember a lot of those ─ the medic on the SF “A” team who “happened” to be dating a Christian girl, who “happened” to be talking to him about spiritual stuff, resulting in his “happening” to ask me about the things she was saying!

Connecting the heart to the message.

There’s a great story in the New Testament where we see the process at work. Acts 8:26-40 tells of Phillip, whom God had prepared as the messenger, an Ethiopian man who “happened” to be reading one of the prophets, and, a “divine” appointment. Phillip ended up sharing the good news about Jesus, and the Ethiopian received the message in his heart, was baptized in a convenient pool of water and went on his way rejoicing.

So What?

Although the story of Philip and the Ethiopian was a bit more spectacular than we see in our normal everyday life as Christians, the process is the same. There is an equipped messenger, a prepared heart, and a connecting that impacts eternity.  The architect of the process is the Holy Spirit of God.

Jesus Christ is the Lord of the harvest!   He told his disciples:

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37, 38).

God has a plan and doesn’t need “Super-Christians” to make it work.  All God wants is workers.  Look in the mirror and see one of God’s harvest workers.  Now that you are available, the Lord of the Harvest will do the rest.  Remember, harvest workers are always ‘behind enemy lines’.

Living Behind Enemy Lines – Understanding the Mission

In the first part of this series, Behind Enemy Lines: Situational Awareness, we presented the premise that we, as Christians, are living ‘behind enemy lines.’  We are no longer citizens of this world, but we are members of God’s household, new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).  We discussed the clear teaching of Scripture that the world in which we live is hostile territory.  We then concluded with the question, “Why are we Still Here?”  Where do we go to find the answer?

Well, we can walk into just about any Christian bookstore, listen to any number of teachers, preachers, televangelists, television or radio ministries and get all sorts of answers!  We can  come away easily with the impression that the Christian life is mostly about things on an individual/personal level, such as relationships, abundant/victorious living, success in this world, receiving all of God’s blessings, etc.

While the above might be ‘benefits’ of being part of the household of God and citizens of His Kingdom, are they to be the primary focus of the Christian life?  If they aren’t, what is?

I submit to you that God didn’t send His own Son to die so we could have an abundant life here on earth.  Rather, He came because we are lawbreakers, born on death row, in order to save us from the certain judgment that MUST come if God is true to His word—“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

When we become believers and citizens of the Kingdom of God, we must still live here (behind enemy lines) in a world corrupted by sin, among people trapped in their sin.  We remain here by God’s design, for His purpose, as part of His strategic plan to save others from the certain judgment that is to come.

Chapter 17  of he Gospel of John records our Lord’s prayer to His Father shortly before he went to the cross to fulfill God’ plan for our salvation.  Concerning his disciples and, by extension, all believers to come, Jesus prayed:

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.  My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (vv 16-21a)

Jesus asked for their protection, NOT their removal, because as he had been sent into the world for the salvation of the lost, He (Jesus) was now sending his followers into the world as part of a divine plan!

Furthermore, this ‘sending’ into the world was no secret to the disciples!  Earlier, the Lord himself told them:

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 15:16)

Also, it was no secret to the disciples what they would face from the world during their ‘fruit bearing’ mission.  Read the entire chapter of John 15 for the rest of the story.  They knew they would be operating in hostile territory, but they went anyway!

The remaining piece to the puzzle is to define the ‘fruit.’  We know from the above verse that it is to be ‘fruit that will last’—eternal fruit.  So what is this eternal fruit?  There is a two-part answer here.  The first thing that should come to mind is that we are to show others the only way to escape coming judgment—the path to eternal life.  The second part of the answer is not quite so obvious. We are to help other believers grow in their faith walk so that they, in turn, will show still others the path to eternal life and help them grow!  If you aren’t convinced, listen to Jesus’ command to his disciples.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

The ‘Great Commission’ Christ gave to the disciples then and to us now is NOT about all the ‘benefits of belonging to the corporation’ mentioned at the beginning of this article, but ALL about growing the Kingdom of God on earth!  ALL about the Kingdom.

What drives this old soldier to his knees is the fact that God could save anyone he chooses, anytime he chooses, in any circumstance he chooses—and yet he has chosen mortal human beings, with all their ‘sin’ baggage to be his ambassadors!  Knowing we would mess up repeatedly, knowing that often we would  be poor examples of Christ, God has chosen us—you and me!  That, my friends is God’s master vision—His ‘strategic’ plan!

You might ask, “Isn’t this ambassador thing—preaching the Gospel and helping others grow in Christ the job of people with a special calling to full-time ministry and who have gone to Bible college or seminary?

What sort of training do you need for the task at hand?  Let’s look at a couple of guys who did some street preaching a couple thousand years ago.

When they (Jewish religious leaders and the Roman ‘feds’) saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

Our Lord chose unschooled, ordinary men, not religious leaders, for the enormous task of spreading the Good News to the rest of their world.  Job qualification—just one— they had been with Jesus.  He chooses us for the same task in our world—in our homes and workplaces, in our barracks and squad rooms, on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq.

You and I have been ‘sent where we are,’ right now in our lives, on a mission from God!  If we ‘have been with Jesus’ we have a responsibility.  Have you accepted the challenge?

 

Living Behind Enemy Lines – Situational Awareness

In simple terms, ‘situational awareness’ means nothing more than recognizing your circumstances; knowing what’s going on around you. For instance, a military commander must be aware of the total situation around him and his unit on the battlefield, as well as the bigger ‘strategic’ picture.  Total situation awareness is essential for successful military operations against any enemy, on any battlefield, for any warrior.  As Christians, and warriors in the Kingdom of God, we need to maintain complete situational awareness as inhabitants of planet earth (the battlefield environment), as well as our Commander’s intent (God’s strategic picture).

Sadly, we often lose focus of both our battlefield environment and our Commander’s intent, for a variety of reasons.  They range  from our tendency to focus almost exclusively on ‘personal’ growth and fulfillment, to applying human wisdom and worldly principles to the operation of the ‘postmodern’ church as a whole.  At both levels, the result is that the Lord of the harvest, the Holy Spirit, sits in the back of the bus as we arrogantly occupy the driver’s seat!

Dear readers and friends, it is past time to regain our ‘situational awareness’ and overcome our spiritual ‘nearsightedness.’  For that task, we need to ‘begin at the beginning’ of our lives as Christians and go from there.  In a familiar and often quoted verse of Scripture, the Apostle Paul tells us:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

What a promise – the greatest makeover of all time!  When we place saving faith in Christ, we step out of darkness and into the light, passing from death to life!  We are given a new nature in Christ as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our being, giving us a desire to serve God and the power to live a life of obedience to Him. This is common knowledge, not rocket science.

Our ‘makeover’ is so complete that in another of his letters to the early church, Paul presents what is a mystery to limited human logic.

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” Ephesians 2:6 

This is a bit more difficult for human logic to grasp, but notice the past tense verbs in this verse. Paul is saying that as Christians, although we physically remain here on planet Earth, we have already been ‘raised up’ and ‘seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.’  Paul partially explains this mystery in more easily understood terms a bit later in the same chapter:

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household. . .” Ephesians 2:19

A citizen is a legal resident of a nation, country or state.  Paul is saying that, at the moment of salvation, our ‘legal citizenship’ status changed!  One could say that if before we received Christ, we could have visited the ‘heavenly realm,’ we would have been ‘illegal aliens.’  We are not like the child born to an American military family overseas, who has dual-citizenship status until he or she is 18 years old and needs to make a decision.  We are NOT dual citizens.  Now listen to the Apostle Peter in one of his letters to the early church:

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” 1 Peter 2:11 

Do you see the contrast here? Paul tells us that at one time we were ‘aliens and foreigners’ to God’s household, while Peter tells us that as Christians we are now ‘aliens and strangers’ in the world in which we live!

Why is the world in which we live ‘foreign territory,’ why are we ‘aliens and strangers in it,’ and how do we apply these truths?

First we need to understand that the world in which we live is not, in the strictest sense, the world that God created for the crown of his creation, human beings molded in His image.  In fact, Scripture tells us that the problem of sin in the world that was brought about by willful disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (the why), is much bigger than just our little piece of turf.  There is a clear description of the present condition of God’s creation in Romans 8:17-24, in which we find the following:

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Romans 8:22

All of God’s creation is somehow tainted, polluted by sin, and in need of redemption.

Furthermore, our present world is not governed by God (although He is in complete control), but by a ‘temporary landlord’ ruling over the hearts of fallen man.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” Ephesians 2:1-2

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4

As believers, we are citizens of the household of God, with a new ‘landlord,’ servants of the Most High God, no longer bound by the god of this world.  And as members of God’s household, we are now foreigners and strangers to the world we live in and enemies of the ‘god of this world.’

I have come to the inescapable conclusion that we are living behind enemy lines!  Perhaps this has caused your thought process to pause for a moment of speculation.  Maybe  it came to a screeching halt because your first reaction was “No way!”  Then hear what the Apostle James had to say to believers in his day who were becoming a bit too ‘friendly’ with the fallen culture around them.

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” James 4:4

If you still aren’t convinced that we are living in enemy territory, I encourage you to read the entire chapter in James, followed by Jesus’ words to his followers in John, chapters 15 and 16, concerning what to expect from the world.

My friend, your opinion in this matter is between you and the Holy Spirit.  I merely encourage you to prayerfully consider the premise presented in the ramblings of an old soldier.  If you agree with the basic premise, you cannot escape the question: “Why are we still down here?”  Think about it.

 

What is Evangelism?

Many people use the word evangelism in different ways. However, what does the Bible say about this important word? When we look to Scripture, we run into a problem: there is no direct-equivalent word for our English word evangelism in the New Testament. Its origin is rooted in three Greek words:

euangelion—“gospel”—to describe what is said (Mark 1:14–15)

euangelistes—“evangelist”—to describe the person who is telling the gospel (Acts 21:8; Eph. 4:11)

euangelizo— “to proclaim the gospel”—to describe the activity of telling the gospel (Rom. 10:15).

Evangelism, then, is the English term for the act of communicating the gospel, an act conveyed in the New Testament by the verb euangelizo (‘to bring good news’).[i]

The verb evangelize is used over 50 times in the New Testament, including 25 by Luke and 21 by Paul. As stated above, its essential meaning is to announce or proclaim Good News. . The underlying picture is that of a herald or town crier who sounds the trumpet and conveys the news from the king. In that sense, the task of a herald isn’t to express his opinions or ideas, but to deliver his message in the humility of heart that must accompany such authority of speech.[ii]

After years of study concerning what it means to evangelize, this writer’s all-time favorite definition comes from Alistair Begg:

“To evangelize is to present Christ Jesus to sinful people in order that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they may come to put their trust in God through Him.”[iii]

What a RICH definition:

1. It defines the mission of the evangelist – “to present Christ”.

While it doesn’t tell us exactly what to present about Christ, the Apostle Paul did in one of letters to the church at Corinth. He defined the gospel as being of first importance, and “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures…” (1 Cor 15:3). My friends, that is the core of the gospel message, the GOOD NEWS!

2. It defines the primary audience for the GOOD NEWS – “sinful people” who have yet to trust in Christ as the solution to the problem of sin.

3. It defines the power behind the proclamation of the GOOD NEWS – “the power of the Holy Spirit”. The Holy Spirit is the power behind both the proclamation of the Gospel, and the power behind a genuine affirmative response to the message of the Gospel.

4. It defines the goal of our evangelistic efforts – that “they (sinners) may come to put their trust in God through Him”. That sinners would realize their sinful condition and genuinely trust in Christ for forgiveness is the desired response to the message we proclaim. A ‘genuine’ response is one that pours forth from a God-opened heart (See Lydia in Acts 16), and one that is not the result of our ‘powers of persuasion’, whatever that might look like.

Simply put, our part in evangelism is to faithfully present Christ as the answer to problem of sin. It means that we need to talk about the BAD news (the problem of sin), followed by the GOOD NEWS!

When we look at what passes as presenting Christ in today’s evangelical environment, it seems clear that the bad news concerning sin, and the need for repentance, have all but been forgotten entirely! If you think that a mistaken notion, just listen/watch just about any sermon from any of today’s popular pulpits/stages while asking the question “Where’s Paul’s gospel?

When it comes to our personal efforts at sharing Christ, it’s always easier to talk about what receiving Christ means in terms of temporal and heavenly benefits than it is to share the bad news that at times drives people away. But remember Lydia. God opens hearts to hear the what we have to say, both the bad news and the good news.

What can be done to best prepare us for personal evangelism? For this old guy, there’s a simple two-part answer.

1. KNOW Paul’s gospel!

2. Ask God for 1) tears for the lost and 2) that He would open the hearts of those with whom we share His Son


[i] Jeremy Bouma, ‘What is Evangelism?’

[ii] Alistair Begg, Crossing the Barriers, Lesson 1

[iii] Ibid.

“Biblical Calvinism – An Introduction to the Doctrines of Grace” by Dr. Curt Daniel, Part 2

The Sovereignty of God

To begin, we must go back to eternity past to when God alone existed. “In the beginning, God”(Gen. 1:1). God has always existed and is self-existent (Rev. 1:8). God is therefore totally independent of everything else. He alone is totally free and self-sufficient. He does not need Man or anything in all Creation (Acts 17:25). He is perfect (Matt 5:48) and is therefore perfectly happy in Himself. God is so far above Man that we cannot even begin to comprehend Him of ourselves (Isa. 57:15). In sum, God is God (Ex.3:14).

Now we know that God created all things (Gen.1:1). But have you ever wondered why God created the universe? What moved Him to do that? Or even more, why does God do what He does? God himself tells us in His Word: : “Our God is in the Heavens. He does whatever He pleases” (Psa. 115:3; cf. Psa. 135:5-6; Job 23:13; Eph. 1:11; Dan.4:35). God does whatever He wants to. This is the mere pleasure of God (Matt. 11:26). God does as He pleases, always as He pleases, only as He pleases.

God willed to create a universe. But before He did the creating, He formed a “plan” (Jer. 49:20; 50:45). Scripture calls this His eternal “purpose” (Rom. 8:28, 9:11, Isa. 46:10-11; Eph. 3:11; Acts 4:28; 2 Tim. 1:9). It is a blueprint for everything, as it were (cf. Luke 14:28-30). It is not merely a wish or a command, but His decree that preprograms everything. He “works all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11; cf. Psa. 33:11). Thus, it is absolutely essential to see that God foreordained everything that will come to pass. He predestined everything that will ever happen, down to the smallest detail. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:36).

Moreover, God will never change His mind on this eternal plan. His purpose shall stand forever because God never changes (Jer. 4:28; 23:20; 30:24; 1 Sam. 15:29). Therefore, His purpose shall most certainly come to pass exactly as He planned it. Nothing can prevent it (Psa. 33:11; 148:3; Tit. 1:2; Prov. 19:21; Isa. 14:27; Heb. 6:17; Job 42:1). Neither Man nor demon nor angel can frustrate God’s eternal purpose from being accomplished, for all of their thoughts and actions are included in that purpose. God did not consult with us, not even by foreseeing what we would do or say. He consulted only with Himself within the Trinity (Eph. 1:11; Rom. 11:34; Isa. 40:13-14). With all this in view, then, we see that there is no such thing as chance, luck or accidents. There are no coincidences; everything has been predestined. Why, God has even determined in advance the flipping of a coin (Prov. 16:33; Jonah 1:7; Acts 1:24-26).

“The Lord God omnipotent reigns” (Rev. 19:6). God is King over everything that is, was or ever shall be (Psa. 93:1; 99:1; 103:19). He is an absolute monarch, yes, the most absolute monarch of all because He is King of Kings (Rev. 19:16). This is what we mean by the sovereignty of God. He has 100% total authority over everything. The universe is not a democracy; it is a kingdom ruled by God. And not only did He predestine all that happens in time, but in time He sovereignly guides all things through providence (Rom. 8:28; 11:36; Eph. 1:11). Lest somebody object that this does not seem right, God reminds us that the universe is His property and He can do whatever He wants to with it (Matt. 20:15). And He does just that– whatever He wants to.

The question then arises, “What is the final purpose for which God does all things?” Though God has not told us all the details of His secret plans (Deut. 29:29), He has granted us the privilege of knowing the bottom line. What is it? The final goal of the whole universe is the glory of God. “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to Whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36). He foreordained and created all things to display His glory, and everything will give Him glory and praise at the end of time in eternity future (Prov. 16:4; Psa. 145:10; Phil. 2:11; Rev. 4:11). God is the First Cause and Last End of all things. There is neither chance nor fate. The universe has meaning, and so do we. We exist to give God glory.

This principle of the sovereignty of God must be clearly understood in order to grasp what Calvinism is all about.

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Part 1