Jonathan Edwards On The Nature Of Conversion

Jonathan Edwards on conversion, in A Faithful Narrative of The Surprising Work of God:

These gracious discoveries given, whence the first special comforts are derived, are in many respects very various. More frequently, Christ is distinctly made the object of the mind, in his all-sufficiency and willingness to save sinners; but some have their thoughts more especially fixed on God, in some of his sweet and glorious attributes manifested in the gospel, and shining forth in the face of Christ. Some view the all-sufficiency of the mercy and trace of God; some, chiefly the infinite power of God, and his ability to save them, and to do all things for them; and some look most at the truth and faithfulness of God. In some, the truth and certainty of the gospel in general is the first joyful discovery they have; in others, the certain truth of some particular promises; in some, the grace and sincerity of God in his invitations, very commonly in some particular invitation in the mind, and it now appears real to them that God does indeed invite them. Some are struck with the glory and wonderfulness of the dying love of Christ; and some with the sufficiency and preciousness of his blood, as offered to make an atonement for sin; and others with the value and glory of his obedience and righteousness. In some the excellency and loveliness of Christ, chiefly engages their thoughts; in some his divinity, that he is indeed the Son of the living Cod; and in others, the excellency of the way of salvation by Christ, and the suitableness of it to their necessities.

Inconvenient Evangelism

A great little post from Leon Brown over at Reformation21:

Sharing the gospel takes time, time we often do not believe we have. Sometimes we are so concerned with ensuring our plans are completed, we do not stop to consider that the Lord may have other ways he would like to utilize us. Sure, we know in theory God “establishes [our] steps,” but when the theory becomes a reality, it rattles our me-centered paradigm. That is one reason why some of us may not share the gospel very much, if at all. It is inconvenient, rattles our self-centered approached to life, and thwarts our plans.

Read the whole thing here.

Better Together For Mission

The title of this post is the title I have for the sermon I’m preaching this coming Sunday.

It’s causing me issues.

I’ve spent most of this morning writing and deleting words from my screen. I haven’t been able to put into words the things I need to say and so currently have very little to say.

Part of this post is to enable me to write something that may actually trigger what I want to say come Sunday.

Of course, I’m hoping to say what God wants me to say. As I do every time I preach. But that’s all well and good when the words flow, the passage makes sense, and the topic is an easy one.

So far these have alluded me.

When thinking about ‘Better Together For Mission’ there comes to mind the group or communal aspect of mission.

Mission is not a solitary exercise between one individual to another, although it could be. But even when it seems to be this way there is usually prayers from church members or mission supporters that are being lifted up and heard by God, therefore having an impact upon the situation.

In a local church context there are programs run by numerous people within the church, another example of community working together for mission.

Where programs aren’t a big emphasis then the daily mission task of the average Christian is being encouraged weekly through the Sunday gathering with a reminder of what it is to be a believer during the week.

The point is that mission is not individualistic, it is communal. And so the partnership between individuals, the church, and God is evident in each and every mission activity we do.

But this still doesn’t resolve my problem.

If mission is something that is part of the whole of life as a believer then mission is life. It isn’t some part of life, it is the driving force behind a purposeful life.

The reality is this kind of focus and priority isn’t seen as regularly within the church and the Christian life as we’d like. Unfortunately it’s more like a bit part, something that comes to our minds only when we’ve been reminded that God has a mission for us here in the world.

On one hand we could say that mission is a communal exercise, even if we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere, with a language we hardly understand, and a culture we find confusing. But it must be ingrained in us to think that mission is a natural part of living. A life focused on another mission – to earn heaps of money, to climb the corporate ladder, to write a Pulitzer prize – is one that doesn’t give God the priority. These things may come our way but they aren’t the driving force in life, they are second to the mission of follow Jesus. be more like him, and see others come to know him too.

As I write these words my mind is cynical about what I’m writing. Is this the reality of the Bible? Is it simply simplistic to write this and how does this play out in life?

I’m not sure right now and I’m not sure when I’ll be sure. Perhaps this speaks more of me than of what God’s mission is for the world.

But if there is a focus on anything but Jesus then something is wrong. That I know for sure.

Perhaps that’s the answer right there.

We won’t be involved in what God is doing around the world, whether right next door to where we live or 4000km away, unless we have Jesus as the focus, priority, and central aspect to our whole life.

If Jesus isn’t the centre of our life then his mission for us won’t be the centre of our thought.

If Jesus isn’t the centre of our church then his mission won’t be the centre of our local ministry,

If Jesus isn’t the centre then something else will be and we will lose out on being part of God’s mission.

God and Vocation

Aimee Byrd recently wrote a little post about vocation, with a pretty cool story to go with it, and used a Gene Veith quote. I thought it was relevant to yesterday’s post on where God is.

…vocation is played out not just in the extraordinary acts—the great things we will do for the Lord, the great success we envision in our careers someday—but in the realm of the ordinary. Whatever we face in the often humdrum present—washing the dishes, buying groceries, going to work, driving the kids somewhere, hanging out with our friends—this is the realm into which we have been called and in which our faith bears fruit in love. We are to love our neighbors—that is, the people who are actually around us, as opposed to the abstract humanity of the theorists. These neighbors constitute the relationships that we are in right now, and our vocation is for God to serve them through us. (p59)

Where Is God?

When on a short-term mission trip the end of each day is usually set aside for a team debrief. In this setting I often ask the question “Where have you seen God today?”

It is a question I find hard to answer myself.

Recently I’ve been reflecting on how some people seem to be able to answer this question of God’s presence easily while others don’t.

I’m one of the people that don’t.

It’s not that God isn’t around. I know He is. In fact, it would be rather depressing if God wasn’t around and you couldn’t see His hand in the world.

But in the daily grind, while eating breakfast, working in the office, looking after the kids, fiddling with our phones, and doing what we do it’s often hard to spot God’s presence. It’s not like each day is filled with overwhelming awe for life and the tasks to do during the day. Many days are similar, many days a filled with challenges as well as joys.

I can’t say God is in the joys without saying He’s in the challenges either. To say God is only in the joy-filled moments of life not only cuts Him out of much of the ordinary but also downplays the importance of His presence in the challenging times.

In some respects it’s about perspective. A greater awareness of God will bring a greater awareness of His presence in our days.

I was reminded of this as I read Ephesians 1-2 this morning. Paul talks in such lofty terms but reminds us of what He has done for us through His Son. Much of the passage is to do with what God has granted us through the work of His Son. And while the passage doesn’t talk directly about His presence in the world we can see the way He does work and so must be working today. The fact that He has chosen, predestined, adopted, blessed, redeemed, forgiven, lavished upon, made known, and given an inheritance to His people assumes He’s still doing that today. And if He’s still doing that today then He’s still at work, which means He’s still present.

So where have I seen God today? All around.

In what exactly? In the people I talk to. In the shopping centre I visit. In the driver I pass on the freeway. In the cafe I sit in. In the home I live in.

I’m not sold on the idea that He is in everything, like in the salt and pepper shakers I have in front of me. But His presence is in this world and I need to be more observant of it.

So, what about you? Where have you seen God today?

On ‘Missional Posture’

A lifetime ago I was a personal trainer and gym manager and part of my role grew into what is known as corporate health. Part of this role was to perform ‘ergonomic assessments’ on people working in factories and offices. Take an office setting for example, I’d come in and have a look at how you’re sitting at your desk and give tips and advice on how to better sit and perform your duties. This was in order to help improve or maintain your posture and ultimately your long-term health.

posture

One particular aspect of the book, Sentness: Six Postures Of Missional Christians, I’ve found helpful is the idea of ‘posture’ and the Christian life.

I’m in the fortunate position of being able to speak at different churches on a regular basis and this month is the busiest one of the year. After reading Sentness by Hammond and Cronshaw I’ve been illustrating the way we are to view the Christian life with this term ‘missional posture’. It’s been helpful in explaining part of the Christian worldview.

The posture we should have as Christians is one centred on mission.

This will affect lifestyles and choices and decisions we make as we live life.

Matthew 28:16-20 is a great example of the posture we should have as Christians. Matthew describes the scene of the disciples coming to Jesus after he’s been resurrected and then tells us Jesus’ final words before he leaves earth.

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 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.”

This passage is fairly clear isn’t it? It’s a pretty simple directive from Jesus about how we’re to view the Christian life, particularly his words about making disciples.

It’s clear, it’s simple.

And this is where the term ‘missional posture’ is helpful.

The Christian life is to be lived with a posture of mission at the core.

The posture one has can show many things about a person. So too the missional posture of a Christian will show the attitude they have to their faith.

The Christian faith isn’t simply a slice in the pie of life. It encompasses all.

The posture we have as Christians can’t really be anything else. Can it?

‘From Five Barley Loaves’ – An Interview with Ken Manley

From Five Barley Loaves CoverThis year Global Interaction, the Australian Baptist cross-cultural mission agency, celebrates 100 years since federation and 149 years of involvement in global mission. As part of these celebrations a book has been released highlighting the involvement of Australian Baptists in cross-cultural mission since 1860.

The first five Baptist missionaries sent from Australia were female. At their commissioning service the pastor, Silas Mead, preached from the text referring to Jesus feeding the five thousand in John 6. Drawing on this story Mead made reference to the five barley loaves supplied by the child, the implication being that the work these five women were about to undertake in Bengal would be one where they were few among many. It is from this beginning that the title of the book From Five Barley Loaves gets its name.

Ken Manley, Australian Baptist pastor, historian, and former Whitley College principal, was one of three main editors of this work. He has been kind enough to answer a few questions about the book and let us in on some of the significant points of his research and writing. I’d like to publicly thank Ken for agreeing to share his thoughts, it’s much appreciated.

1. What interested you in being involved in writing this book?

I was asked to act as a consultant to a small group from Global Interaction who were planning the project. There was no expectation or commitment that I would do any writing. I was quite supportive of the book for several reasons. When writing my history of Australian Baptists I had included one chapter on our foreign mission work and realised how inadequate this was. I knew there was a great need for a carefully researched history of the Mission. I also believed that the work of the Mission was the most unifying ministry of Australian Baptists nationally and wanted to see the full story told. My friend Gerald Ball had written a fine thesis on early Australian Baptist work in India and had been asked to write a major history of ABMS (as our mission was then called). I really wanted to help him and was sorry when his health meant that a much wider group of writers had to work on the history. Also, I had always been a supporter of the Mission and had served in minor ways across the years and so was delighted to be asked to help as an advisor. In the end I wrote the chapters on home leadership and mission policy as well as the conclusion.

2. In your mind, what were the most significant findings in researching the book?

This is hard to say in the sense that in broad terms the story was well known. As a group we shared a belief that mission history generally and our story in particular should itself have a strong missiological purpose. As we wrote the history we were constantly seized with the way in which the Mission was led by God and sustained especially in the most difficult times. The way in which various national groups responded to the gospel is itself inspiring and a reminder that all missionary work is in the deepest sense simply telling what God is doing in the world. The depth of the commitment to the work by such a wide range of people right across our churches was confirmed by the details of our research.

3. As Australian Baptists why is it important to know our mission history?

It is a major part of who we are as a people. We did not want to produce a naive devotional narrative that depicted missionary heroes as flawless saints. We wished to avoid any sense of triumphalism or promote a cultural imperialism. The growth of faith and mission among those people with whom the missionaries shared has been a significant and central part of our story, not as a justification or vindication of ‘our’ work but as testimony to the unfailing work of God in mission in the world. That God used ordinary people just like us is a call and challenge for us to serve in our day.

4. Was there anything that surprised you about our mission history? If so, what?

I am not sure that ‘surprised’ is the right word. In broad outline the story was known. Yet the very fact of bringing it all together was itself an inspiration. Here was ‘just’ another story about part of the global phenomenon that is Christian mission. Here was a tale about this small part of the Christian world family seeking to share the truths of the gospel to people of different cultures. Here was the story of both failures and successes, of a slow but steady growth in awareness of the challenges of cross-cultural mission and of experiments in outreach to different cultures in times of dramatic changes in the world. We believe that there is inspiration and challenge in the story but we have not felt it necessary to gloss over mistakes and struggles. A couple of the saddest parts to record were about differences and failures but that was necessary too.

5. How can we be encouraged in our faith through reading this book?

Archbishop Rowan Williams has written, ‘We are always likely to forget that Jesus is different from the Church, not the Church’s possession’. So with this Mission. We were once inspired with the vision of taking the gospel to the ‘lost heathen of the world’. We do not mock the motivation, the sincerity and the passion with which that mission was undertaken. But our Mission’s story affirms that Jesus was never the Mission’s possession to be given from an imagined superiority to the poor benighted people of distant foreign places. Today we clearly affirm that we are partners not propagandists with a vision to ‘empower communities to develop their own distinctive ways of following Jesus’.

Indeed, as the one eventually charged to write about the work of successive leaders, to analyse home support and reflect on the missiological policies of the Mission, I was deeply impressed with several aspects and found my own faith in missions increased. I was, for example, inspired by the way in which during successive periods dedicated workers grappled with challenging problems. Frank Marsh who led the Mission for 23 years summarised his term as a series of crises that ‘add up to a story of repeated deliverance and convincing evidence of Divine care’. His successors echoed this sentiment. I discovered a willingness to change, to follow fresh insights and to adopt compelling mission goals even if this involved risks of misunderstanding by supporters. Most especially, I came to understand more clearly the immense depths of support given by a myriad of loyal, mostly unknown Baptists, whose unfailing interest, incredible generosity, faithful prayers and sacrificial efforts seemed to grow in times of desperate need and which lay behind every advance on the fields. This is the story of such ordinary Baptists at home as well as the hundreds who served as missionaries in diverse locations.

6. And for those tossing up whether to read this history or not, what would you say to them?

It is a long book and you may choose to read it in chunks. It is great value! Every church should have a copy in the church library or available for all to read. The story in each country is found in separate chapters. Reading it will reward you as an individual believer and as a church you will be challenged to extend your commitment to global mission in our generation. Here is our story, not only from the past by right up to date. If you care about the spread of the gospel throughout our world today you will need to read and be challenged!

Any further comments?

One Anglican reader and historian of missions, Professor Stuart Piggin has written about our history: ‘A really quite astonishing record of an astonishing part of the church family which says to the rest of us, “Go and do thou likewise”’.