This is a brand new series we are doing to help those who are interested in going to, already in or who have graduated Bible College or seminary. The purpose of this series is to help you grow in the grace of God while you are preparing for, while you are attending and after you graduate from seminary.
Throughout the “Dear Seminarian” series, we’ve talked a lot about how to grow in the grace of God and how to remain focused on Jesus as you grow in knowledge of the Word and the gospel. Today, I want to talk to you about loving God’s people. The reason one goes to seminary is to be trained to handle the Word of God with skill and precision. Along the way, seminary students learn a great deal about biblical languages, church history, and many other theological topics. Undergirding all of this information and knowledge gaining must be a love for God’s people. Without this understanding, seminary becomes another exercise to build our minds without growing our hearts. In other words, the purpose of seminary is to learn more to be able to share what we learn with others in ways they will understand.
Love for God’s Church comes from the gospel itself. Jesus bled, died, rose, ascended and now serves as our High Priest, Intercessor, Mediator, and Chief Shepherd over His Church. This truth alone should compel us to not just sit in class or in a chapel meeting to hear sermons. Conversely, it should compel us to hear, apply, and be freshly impacted by the preaching and teaching of the Scripture. Seminary does not exist to serve as an end to itself; rather it is a means to build the Church. When this truth gets out of whack, all sorts of problems happen such as seminary professors and students who overlook the need for biblical community focusing instead on merely the acquisition of knowledge in the classroom environment. This is a very real problem in many seminaries around the United States where seminary students are detached from the community of God’s people and professors sit in their ivory towers never submitting to the leadership of a local church. Love for God’s Word should compel love for God’s Church and His people. If not, we are fooling ourselves into thinking that academic accomplishments mean more than the gospel, something Scripture depicts as the height of foolishness.
Furthermore, love for God’s people should compel us to service. Many people in our congregations are hungry to learn more about the Word of God but don’t have the tools. As seminary students, you don’t need to give an “informational dump”. It is more appropriate to be yourself, go with the flow of conversations, being mindful of the level of understanding of those you are instructing. It is also necessary to be cognizant of the reality that some might feel intimated because you are a seminary student given the perception that all seminary students must know more about Scripture than everyone else. If individuals have questions about your seminary experience, do not be afraid to answer those types of questions. With that said, keep the conversation as simple as possible, being careful not to elaborate on every bit of theological detail or knowledge you have accumulated. It is vital to be mindful of your audience in these instances. From my own personal experience, I can tell you it can not only be awkward, it can also cause some people to feel even more intimidated. As we’ve pointed out in this series, you will need to find ways to be intentionally humble and one way you can accomplish that is by answering people’s questions with the necessary depth and simplicity without compromising the message. In other words, if you get to the heart of the issue as quickly as possible, you will properly edify the saints, showing love for God’s people. As someone who can be long-winded this is very much even now a work in progress as readers of Servants of Grace will know! Love God’s people by serving them, being energized by the grace of God to the glory of God.
Finally, since you are in seminary learning the Word to include the “how” of church life and ministry, I encourage you to find a godly mentor and pastor. These godly men will serve you by helping you to think through issues, both the difficult and the seemingly mundane. Don’t be defensive with them. Be transparent, laying your heart out there. That can be scary for some, but those in seminary need mature fathers in the faith. Find godly men with lots of experience in ministry and life to learn and grow from. Pick their brain about doctrinal and theological issues. Learn from their experiences. This will require humility and you may disagree at times with these men, but show respect to them because their experience and knowledge are far greater than yours. In doing so, you are showing love for God’s Word, God’s gospel, and His people. I urge you to continually grow in passion for the Gospel and the Church for as you do, you will progress in the grace of God. In the process, know that others will see your growth even if you can’t and praise the God of all grace for His work in your life.
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One of the greatest needs for Christians today is to understand how their faith is rooted in the history of God’s dealing with man. In his latest book Silent Witnesses: Lessons on Theology, Life, and the Church from Christians of the Past Garry Williams tells the story of a selection of figures from Christian history, figures whose lips have now fallen silent but who still speak to God’s people through their testimony and writing. These figures will help us understand the essentials of the Christian faith, the Christian life and give advice to pastors and elders on ministry in the local church.
The book covers men from the fourth century through the twentieth, men like Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, John Calvin, John Owen and Jonathan Edwards. Each chapter includes some breakdown of the life of the figure being covered then goes into how their particular thought on the topic was helpful.
Books like Silent Witnesses are helpful for a number of reasons. First many Christians may not be familiar with the figures covered in this book. The men and the one woman covered in this book provides models in the author’s view of how Christians should think through the Christian life and ministry. Second, as noted earlier, Christians need to understand how their faith is not something new but something old and rooted in the history of His redeemed people. This book will help Christians to understand how what they think today about a variety of topics was influenced by men and women of previous generations. This means that we should learn from what others have said because we aren’t the first generation to study the Bible. Finally, this book is important because it provides guidance to pastors and elders from men like Luther and Calvin.
Whether you are a new to the study of church history or a seasoned veteran, Silent Witnesses Lessons on theology, life, and the church from Christians of the past has something for you. This is a book to read slowly and digest. It contains a lifetime of lessons from men whom God has used in the life of His people and continues to use through their writing to powerfully to equip and edify the people of God. I highly recommend this book and pray the Lord will use it powerfully to strengthen and encourage the saints in their various ministries.
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In 2001, I attended Urbana in Urbana-Champagne, Illinois. It was winter, and it was quite cold. During the conference we were challenged by the speakers about giving our lives to the cause of missions. My mom had given me some money which was for food. It was nearing the end of the conference and it came time to give an offering. As the speaker spoke about this, I was being prompted by the Holy Spirit to give all the money I had. It was a real struggle for me at this time. I knew that I would be okay if I gave up my money, but I didn’t know if it was the right choice. I continued to be convicted by the Holy Spirit and I ended up giving every cent I had in my wallet at that conference. To this day I don’t regret that decision.
My point here is it is in the little things where we are challenged to be faithful to the Lord. Whether we are walking down the street or are at a conference far from our homes, every single Christian is a missionary. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter”.
Recently, I’ve been going on daily walks, typically for several miles. During my walks, I spend significant time in prayer. One of the main focuses of my prayer-time has been for those who are being persecuted around the world. The Bible teaches us to pray for our brothers and sisters who are experiencing persecution. We live in challenging times and to combat the trials and evils of this world, Christian men and women must be willing to step out of their comfort zones and boldly proclaim their faith in the sovereign grace of God.
When I went on my first mission trip to Mexico, I was forced to step outside my comfort zone and when I did so my eyes were open to the poverty all around me. I saw how people were suffering not only because of drug cartels, but also because of the poverty in which they were forced to live. Despite their circumstances, however, they were happy. Their happiness was infectious and convicting, and once again I was being convicted as my heart began to understand the reason why.
Perhaps today your eyes need to be opened. God has a global mission program, and that program includes you. The local church is the hope of the world. God’s plan and design is to use ordinary people in extraordinary ways for His purposes. Before He can do this, however, He often chooses to humble a man to use in this endeavor. Look at the Apostle Paul; consider Joseph who although he resisted Potiphar’s wife’s advance was thrown into jail; and consider Daniel who was taken out of his homeland and moved to Babylon where he rose to great heights of power because of the Lord’s sovereign plan for him. Most importantly consider Jesus who suffered injustice and yet never sinned. Jesus, however, is not only a good example to His people, He is their Lord, Savior, King, Priest, God, Intercessor, High Priest and Advocate. All of the great men and women who have given their lives for the sake of the gospel pale in comparison to Jesus. All over the Middle East and Asia men and women are giving their lives for the gospel. They have counted the cost and decided to follow Jesus all the way to death. This is what the Christian life is all about—not only a way of death, but to a certain kind of death—death to self which brings glory to God. As John Owen once said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
The reason we can participate in mission work is because the Lord has a global mission plan that includes us in the context of both the local and world-wide church. Whether or not you choose to go overseas (or to another country) is irrelevant. Right outside your door are people who are lost and need the hope that is in Jesus Christ. Inside of your local church are struggling brothers and sisters in Christ who need your prayers, encouragement, and care. Men, inside the walls of your house are your children, who need you to lead them. Men, wives need us to lead them towards Jesus on a daily basis.
The call to discipleship is not a call to a life of ease and comfort, my friends; no, it’s a call to radically follow Jesus not just to the cross, but to death. You see, Jesus died not only so our sins could be forgiven, but so that we could put to death our sin and grow in Him. This is what mature godly growth in Christ is about—it’s about refusing to make excuses for why you’ve become complacent or stagnant in Christ, and repent. It’s about participating in the Church body by becoming a member and being submissive to the biblical leadership of the local church. It’s about being a disciple, committed to obeying and living under the teaching of the Bible. Are you that kind of disciple? Have you counted the cost of following Jesus? Or are you still making excuses for why you aren’t growing? I encourage you today to stop making excuses, start following Jesus in all of life by finding a good Bible teaching church, and becoming a member. Don’t just sit in the pew; get involved in the lives of those around you, encouraging them to follow Jesus all the more, even as they do the same with you. Trust me, you’ll find as you do this that you’re growing, not only in knowledge of the Word, but also in discipleship with fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus. Practicing discipleship will also spur on your growth further, and fan the flames in your heart for God’s global purposes—to use His people and His church to expand His fame to the nations.
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This is our weekly roundup of posts for 8/11/2014-8/16/2014. If you have any feedback on how we can serve you our readers better, I would appreciate it. Thank you for reading and allowing us to minister to you throughout this past week through these posts.
Why Theology Matters for You and Me: Theology, the Church, and the Christian Life http://servantsofgrace.org/why-theology-matters-for-you-and-me-theology-the-church-and-the-christian-life/
Dear Seminarian: So You Want to Go to Seminary? by Zach Kendrick http://servantsofgrace.org/dear-seminarian-so-you-want-to-go-to-seminary/
Embracing a War-like Posture by Greg Gibson http://servantsofgrace.org/embracing-a-war-like-posture/
John Owen on the Work of the Spirit in Prayer by Brian Hedges http://servantsofgrace.org/john-owen-on-the-work-of-the-spirit-in-prayer/
Podcast: Three Ways to Pray and support the persecuted by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/147-three-ways-to-pray-for-and-support-the-persecuted-christianspodcast/
Dear Seminarian: Four Lessons For Seminary Students Part 1 by Joey Cochran http://servantsofgrace.org/dear-seminarian-four-lessons-for-seminary-students-part-1/
The most shared verses in their context (EPHESIANS 5:25-26) by Mike Leake http://servantsofgrace.org/the-most-shared-verses-in-their-context-ephesians-525-26/
10 Myths About Lust by Jared Moore http://servantsofgrace.org/10-myths-about-lust/
Dear Seminarian: Four Lessons For Seminary Students Part 2 by Joey Cochran http://servantsofgrace.org/dear-seminarian-four-lessons-for-seminary-students-part-2/
7 Ways You Can Pray For The Persecuted by Chris Poblete http://servantsofgrace.org/7-ways-you-can-pray-for-the-persecuted/
Why We Must Have a BIG View of God by Jeff Medders http://servantsofgrace.org/must-big-view-god/
Dear Seminarian: Four Lessons For Seminary Students Part Three by Joey Cochran http://servantsofgrace.org/dear-seminarian-four-lessons-for-seminary-students-part-three/
How to Offer & Receive Criticism by Mathew Sims http://servantsofgrace.org/offer-receive-criticism/
Breaking Free from Anger by Matthew Fretwell http://servantsofgrace.org/breaking-free-from-anger/
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One of the most neglected aspects in the field of missions work is the telling of stories of how God is at work in the world. Christians rightly emphasize the Bible’s emphasis of God seeking to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Whenever I read or hear missionaries returning from the field to share about the work the Lord is doing in and through their respective ministries, I’m always greatly encouraged and blessed. These stories are faith strengthening and expand our understanding of Christ’s saving work. Further, they instill in God’s people a greater confidence in the power of God to save and sanctify a people for His own possession. With the goal of telling stories of God’s saving work around the world today, Crossway has published Dispatches From The Front: Stories of Gospel Advance In The World’s Difficult Places by Tim Keese of Frontline Missions International. Telling the story of how the Lord is working in some of the world’s most perilous countries, these stories span the globe from China to Afghanistan and highlight the courageous faith of those doing the work in their respective countries.
One of the greatest needs in countries where Christians are heavily persecuted is resources that are Bible-based. Many of the pastors in these countries have little to no Bible training. You never know when you write an article, record a podcast or video blog who will read, listen or watch your material. This is one reason why when I talk to people about blogging I tell them that their material should be biblical, practical and personal. Our brothers and sisters in places like the Middle East, Africa and other places around the world don’t have the amount of resources that Christians in America have. This is one reason why American Christians should be mindful of how blessed we are that we have an abundance of resources at our disposal. This is also one reason why we should be mission minded in our writing ministry online and in our ministries in our local churches. Our goal should be to speak the truth in love to build one another up. This is exactly why I’m thankful for Dispatches From the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance In The World’s Difficult Places.
Dispatches From The Front is a unique book in my opinion. I’m in the fortunate position where I receive copies of almost all of the latest and greatest Christian books to read and review. In my opinion this book is one of the best books I’ve read in the past five years.
As Christians especially in the West we live mostly in the bubble of our local churches. By that I mean we live in a world where we go to church Sunday after Sunday and hear the pastor preach but often miss the fact that our local church isn’t the only place where Christians are. We live in a connected world where we can now connect with Christians the world over. Our faith is not something new but old and rooted in the history of God’s redemptive plan from Genesis to Revelation. The Lord is working in and through His people using ordinary people in extraordinary ways for His glory. This book tells some of the grand story of God’s redemptive work in the world. It is for this and many other reasons I think Dispatches at the Front is my book of the year and one of the best books I’ve read in the past decade. I highly recommend this book and pray the Lord would use it to fan the flame of His global mission in His people for His glory.
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