Straight to the Heart

 
 
 

Cultivating a Heart for the Nations

As we began our study of Jonah on Sunday, we quickly realized that we are not that different than he was. As Americans, we have real enemies. Whether it was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor or Osama bin Laden’s attack on the Trade Towers in New York City, there are people, groups, and nations planning to attack and kill Americans. While God has given governments the sword of justice to punish evil and promote good, including providing the necessary military to protect its citizens, what should the church’s response be? How should Christians think about our enemies?
 
Well, that was Jonah’s dilemma. The Assyrians were a true terrorist nation. And yet, the Lord called him to go and bring a message of judgment to Nineveh – one of the great cities of the Assyrian empire. Jonah knew that God’s prophetic warnings of judgment were conditional on the response of the wicked. If they continue in their sin, God would pour out the promised judgment. However, if they repented, God would relent and grant them forgiveness. This was Jonah’s concern. He didn’t want Nineveh to receive mercy; he wanted them to receive the justice they deserved.
 
When we think of American history and the aggression of the Japanese, the Germans, Communists, and radical Muslims, for example, it’s easy to sympathize with Jonah. We too want justice for those who deserve it. Instead, though, God wanted to show Nineveh mercy, so he sent Jonah. The Lord also sends us out to ALL nations. So, while government has a duty to respond militarily to attacks against their citizens, as Christians our response is always missionary. But, how can we cultivate a heart for the nations, even nations that may want to kill us? Allow me to offer five ways:
 
  1. Rehearse the gospel – the good news of God’s mercy toward repentant sinners.
  • God can forgive sinners and remain just because he has punished sin in his own Son, Jesus. Jesus took on our humanity and lived a life of perfect obedience. But he also went to the cross and received God’s justice on behalf of repentant sinners.
  • The gospel reminds us that God is both holy and loving; he is both full of justice and mercy.
 
  1. Remember your conversion – the good news of God’s mercy toward YOU.
  • You came into this world deserving God’s just judgment because you were born a sinner, hostile to God and engaged in evil deeds. Instead, God showed you mercy by saving you, in Christ, and forgiving you of your sin.
  • Meditate on the fact that YOU are Nineveh, deserving God’s just wrath.
  • If there is hope for Nineveh, there is hope for you.
 
  1. Study the doctrine of hell.
  • We may say we believe in hell, but do we understand it? Hell is God’s eternal conscious punishment for unrepentant sinners. It’s what we all deserve, but it’s not what we all receive because of Christ’s work on our behalf.
  • As we study the doctrine of hell, it should move us toward compassion for those who are without Christ.
 
  1. Learn about the nations – their spiritual needs and God’s work among them.
  • The Lord is doing a great work among the nations and various people groups around the world. You may learn about that work through the Joshua Project and Operation World.
  • As you learn about the nations and their needs, pray specifically for them.
 
  1. Finally, become involved in the Lord’s commission to go to the nations.
  • Pray for the Lord to raise up workers, for gospel advancement.
  • Give to the gospel work in the nations – this is why we take up an offering each Sunday.
  • Go! Go short-term, long-term, career – we can help you walk through these questions.
  • Go across the street – Practice personal evangelism now.
  • Go across the ocean – Get a passport, take a trip – again, we’ll help you.
 

May the Lord grant us much grace and give us a heart for the nations!

 
Love,



Each One, Reach One: Invest & Invite

Who’s Your One?

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

John 1:43-45 (ESV)
 

As we strive to be a God-honoring, Christ-exalting, gospel-driven church, we remind ourselves that God desires to glorify Himself by transforming rebellious sinners into those who will worship Him in spirit and truth. The Father is seeking such worshipers (John 4:23-24). We also remind ourselves that the church is the people to whom God has entrusted His gospel and serves as His primary instrument by which He seeks to save the lost.

It is our joy and privilege, then, to join the Father in the gathering of genuine worshipers into the body of Christ. Therefore, by all means available to us, and permissible by Scripture, take the gospel of Christ to unbelieving and unchurched family members, neighbors, co-workers, friends, and acquaintances. We will go door to door; we will have special evangelistic events like VBS and fall festival, and we will search for a variety of ways to take the gospel to the lost and unchurched. However, I want to remind you of an evangelism strategy in which every single one of us can participate – “Who’s You’re One?” As summer comes to a close, and we gear up for our regularly scheduled life activities, I want to challenge everyone to do what no one else can do, namely, invest time in YOUR unbelieving and unchurched family, friends and neighbors, pray for their salvation, take advantage of opportunities to explain the gospel, and invite them to come to church with you.

A study of the previously unchurched, by Dr. Thom Rainer, formerly the Dean of the Billy Graham School of Evangelism and Missions at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and now President of LifeWay Christian Resources, shows that those who were closest to the unchurched were the most likely to reach them with the gospel. Of all relationships, family ties proved the most pivotal. Rainer found that “of the different family members, wives were the most often mentioned as important in influencing the formerly unchurched to Christ and the church” (Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, 49).

The same is true in other relationships. Christians who invest in the lives of unbelievers are in the best position to introduce their friends, neighbors, and co-workers to Christ and the church. This much has been proven already here at High Pointe. Many of the visitor cards we read each week are filled out by those who were invited to attend High Pointe by a friend or family member. Let me encourage you, then, to invest in the lives of unbelieving and unchurched family members, neighbors, friends, and co-workers. When you invest in the lives of unbelievers, you will have opportunities to share Christ with them that others will never have.

As you invest in the lives of the unbelieving and unchurched, do so with the intention of inviting them to church with you. You don’t need any specialized evangelistic training to invite your friends to church; you simply need to ask them to come with you. In the same way that Andrew followed Christ and then invited his brother Simon Peter; and in the same way that Philip followed Christ and then invited Nathanael to follow Christ, I want to encourage you to find those with whom you have relationships and invite them to come to church with you. We promise to pray, plan, and prepare for worship gatherings that will honor God, exalt Christ, and present the gospel. We will also provide free resources that you can give to your friends and family. I urge you, invest in the lives of unbelievers, then invite them to come and see what God is doing at High Pointe! Who’s your one?

 
Love,
 


Cultivating a Culture of Peace

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

(James 3:17-18, ESV)
 
 
The Bible calls us to cultivate a culture of peace.  After all, the gospel is a gospel of peace.  It is a gospel which declares that since the time of Adam’s sin, there have been two parties in conflict: God and humanity.  Since Adam’s sin, everyone one of us was born into this world as God’s enemy: hostile in mind and engaged in evil deeds (Colossians 1:21) against God (Romans 8:7).
 
The most holy God had every right to declare the differences between Him and us irreconcilable.  Nevertheless, in His wisdom God chose to send His Son, Jesus Christ to be the instrument of reconciliation between us and God (1 Timothy 2:5) by pouring out His just wrath on the sinless Christ in order that through Christ’s substitutionary death, we who believe in Christ would have eternal life (Colossians 1:22).
 
Therefore, through Christ, we have been reconciled to God and are given a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  As ministers of reconciliation, we proclaim this same message to all the world that all peoples may be reconciled to God through the death of Christ.  But our ministry of reconciliation does not end there, for we must continue living in the light of the reconciling work of Christ. Consequently, we must live our lives reconciled to one another.
 
Even though we Christians have been reconciled to God through Christ, far too many professing Christians still live in conflict with others.  Such conflict manifests itself in certain marriages, homes, workplaces, even church relationships.  Unfortunately, many of us address disputes according to the wisdom of the world, instead of the wisdom from above.  Therefore, Christians have as many divorces as non-Christians; they stop talking to co-workers or fellow Christians; they leave churches over conflict, or churches may even split over such issues.
 
What kind of Christian testimony do we offer if we are reconciled to God through Christ but fail to be reconciled to one another?  One of the most powerful witnesses we can provide our community is the witness of reconciled relationships that flow from being reconciled to God.  If we are to live in such an atmosphere, then we must cultivate a culture of peace.  According to Ken Sande, author of The Peacemaker, a culture of peace is a culture where “people are eager and able to resolve conflict and reconcile relationships in a way that clearly reflects the love and power of Jesus Christ” (291).  If we are to cultivate such a culture of peace, then we must have a biblical strategy for resolving conflict.  Sande offers the following counsel (the four “G’s”):
 

 Glorify God(1 Corinthians 10:31).  Our entire lives must be motivated by a desire to glorify God.

 

Get the log out of your eye(Matthew 7:5).  We must first look at our own hearts in order to discern our contributions to conflicts.
 

Gently restore(Galatians 6:1).  The Bible gives us explicit instruction in approaching those with whom we have conflict.

 

Go and be reconciled(Matthew 5:24).  Once we have addressed conflict, we must be willing to restore relationships.
 
I invite you to join me in helping to create and cultivate a culture of peace here at High Pointe.  Let us be about God’s glory, and let us address conflict biblically by first looking at our own hearts, then approaching one another with the goal of reconciled relationships that give evidence to the fact that we are a people reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.
 
Love,
 



Juan Sanchez

Juan Sanchez (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as the senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. In addition, Juan serves as a council member of The Gospel Coalition, co-founder and president of Coalición, assistant professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. He has authored numerous books, including 1 Peter for You and Seven Dangers Facing your Church. Juan and his wife, Jeanine, have five daughters, two sons-in-law, and two grandchildren.
 
Request Juan to speak here.
 
    

Juan’s Publications

    

Contributor