- Today at 10:22 PM
- God Has Changed You and Is Changing You
- How the Gospel Unites Two Very Different College Ministries
- Is It Wrong to Compete and Want to Win?
- Brighter Hopes for Cambodia
Posted: 29 Oct 2014 10:01 PM PDT
Would you be more likely to say “God is changing me” or “God has changed me”?
Many Christians are comfortable saying the former, but some of us might hesitate to say the latter: “God has changed me.” We are much more likely to say, “I have a lot more changing to do. I’m a work in progress. I haven’t yet arrived.”
There is indeed a continuing process of sanctification happening within the believer, but the completed work of regeneration is of equal importance. Regeneration is the complete transformation that begins the continuing process of sanctification.
It seems that many Christians have a good grasp on the continuing process, but perhaps a more tenuous grasp of the completed work. So here are seven Scriptures that speak clearly of Christ’s completed work in you as a believer.
You Are a New Creation
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17, NIV)
Paul does not say, “If anyone is in Christ, he is becoming a new creation.” He does not say, “The old is going away.” Nor does he say, “The new is gradually forming.” He says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” There is no process here. This is something that has happened in its entirety, and it’s true of you if you are in Christ.
You Have Been Crucified
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20, NIV)
Regeneration didn’t just happen to Paul; it’s true of every believer. It’s a done deal.
You Have Been Raised
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (Col. 3:1-3, NIV)
Notice it’s not, “If you hope one day to be” but, “Since you have been . . .” If you are a believer, you have been raised with Christ. You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. There is something for us to do (as there are in all these passages) in setting our hearts on things above, but you do that by taking in the first part of the verse.
Your Body Is a Temple of the Holy Spirit
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor. 6:19, NIV)
Some Corinthians also struggled with regeneration. “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit,” not “is becoming a temple of the Holy Spirit.” You have received him from God. If you are in Christ, the Holy Spirit lives with you and in you. His presence gives you power, and that makes the Christian life possible for you. That’s why it’s important to know.
You Are Light
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” (Eph. 5:8, NIV)
He doesn’t say, “You have light,” he says, “You are light.” Your very nature was darkness. You were darkness, now you are light. Your nature has changed. Notice how Paul brings regeneration and sanctification together: “You are light.” That’s regeneration. “Live as . . . light.” That’s sanctification. You can’t live as light, unless you are light.
You Have Been Set Free from Sin
“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (Rom. 6:22, NIV)
Many Christians don’t grasp this point. They would say, “You don’t understand; I sin and fail in many ways. I’m not yet free from sin.” Paul says, “Wait a minute! You have been set free from sin.” He’s writing to ordinary Christians like us. Sin is still your enemy, but it is no longer your master. You are no longer sin’s prisoner. You are no longer in chains. You are no longer under your old master. You can fight against temptation by God’s grace. That’s why there is hope for you.
You Have Been Born Again
“You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Pet. 1:23, NIV)
You can’t be a little born or half born. Either you are born or you are not born. The language connotes completed transaction. This is what has happened to you in Christ. Regeneration is God’s completed work in you. It is not a process. It does not happen in stages. That’s what makes it different from sanctification. You can be a little in love, but you cannot be a little married. Sanctification is like being a little in love. Regeneration is like being married. Either you are or you aren’t. You cannot be a little regenerated.
Regeneration is the complete transformation that begins a continuing process called sanctification. The great truth of sanctification is that “God is changing me.” The great truth of regeneration is that “God has changed me.” We need both.
Posted: 29 Oct 2014 10:01 PM PDT
How much can college ministry really differ from campus to campus when you’re dealing with 18- to 22-year-olds? Quite a bit, actually, depending on your region of the country, the priviate or public nature of the school, and the religious foundation or ongoing commitment of the school.
Jon Nielson and Solomon Rexius (follow on Twitter) minister in two very different campus contexts (see their previous article, “Seven Questions for Two College Pastors“). College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, where Nielson works, stands next to Wheaton College, a private Christian school with about 2,400 undergraduate students. Rexius serves as college pastor at University Fellowship Church in Eugene, Oregon, one of the most liberal and unchurched regions of North America. He graduated from the University of Oregon, and most of the students in his ministry attend this public school of 24,000 students. So these two men lead college ministries in areas that appear to share little in common. But as you’ll hear from them, the gospel unites believers across geography, age, experience, and vocation.
I brought Jon and Solomon together to discuss the privilege of discipling college students in such varied settings. We explored how the gospel of Jesus Christ makes the goals and methods of their respective ministries quite similar. And we dove into the details of evangelism, social media, and retreats, along with the relationship between Christian campus ministries and colleges. Don’t miss their wisdom on how to encourage college students to serve in the local church and put them in contact with adult mentors.
Resources recommended by Solomon and Jon for students or college ministers included:
- ESV Study Bible
- The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
- The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and and Devotions by Arthur Bennett
- Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem
- College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture by Stephen Lutz
- One-to-One Bible Reading by David Helm
- What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
- The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne
- Knowing God by J. I. Packer
- God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts
Posted: 29 Oct 2014 10:01 PM PDT
Editors’ Note: TBT (Throwback Thursday) with Every Square Inch: Reading the Classics is a new weekly column that publishes some of the best writings on vocation from the past. Our hope is to introduce you to thoughtful literature that you may not have discovered yet and, as always, to encourage you to know and love Christ more in all spheres of your life.
As with other aspects of business, so it is with competition: the evils and distortions that have sometimes accompanied competition have led people to conclude that competition is evil in itself. But this is not true.
We can think of some good examples of competition in other areas of life. To take one example, most people think competition in sports is a good thing, whether in children’s soccer leagues or Little League baseball or in professional sports. Although we can all think of bad examples of overly competitive coaches, for the most part we think competition in sports is a good system, and we think it fair that the best teams receive some prize or award at the end. (See 1 Corinthians 9:25-26 and 2 Timothy 2:5 for some metaphors of athletic competition that Paul uses in a positive way.)
Similarly, in our school system, assigning grades is a competitive activity in which the best math students and the best English students and the best art and music students receive higher marks. The grading system provides guidance to help students find something they can do well. When I fly in an airplane, I am glad that it has been designed by someone who got straight A’s in mathematics and engineering. The grading system is “competitive,” and it guides society in assigning jobs to those who are best suited to those jobs.
Opportunity to Test Our Abilities
In the business world, competition does that as well. We hired a careless painter once for our house, and he lasted only a day. But then we found a good painter, and we were willing to pay more for his high-quality work. The bad painter needed to find another occupation, and we were helping him do that by asking him not to come back the next day. The world is so diverse, and the economic system has so many needs, that I am sure there is some area in which he can fulfill a need and do well. But it wasn’t painting.
We must recognize, of course, that in every society there will be some people who because of physical or mental disability are unable to find productive work without help from others, either from charitable organizations or from government agencies. Surely we should support such efforts to provide a “safety net” for those unable to care for themselves. But in American society at least (with which I am most familiar), and in many other countries as well, there is productive work available for the vast majority of the population, and competition is the mechanism that helps workers find the jobs for which their interests and abilities best suit them.
So a competitive system is one in which we test our abilities and find if we can do something better than others, and so be paid for it. The system works well when we reward better work and greater quantity of work with greater reward.
In fact, if you have ever shopped around for the lowest price on a shirt or a computer or a car, your actions show that you approve of competition in the economy, because you are making competition work. You are buying from the person who can produce and distribute a computer cheaper than someone else, and you are encouraging that more efficient manufacturer to stay in business, and you are discouraging the less efficient, more expensive computer manufacturers from staying in business. This happens every day, and we take it for granted. But if we are going to be good stewards of our possessions we need to have competition in the marketplace.
Means for Product Improvement
Another benefit of competition is that people keep getting better at making things, and as a result the (inflation-adjusted) prices of consumer goods keep falling over the course of decades. This means that over time an economically competitive society will enjoy an increasingly higher standard of living.
The audio player I bought last week cost me $89, but a year ago it would have cost me $120. Similarly, computers keep getting better and prices keep falling, so more and more people can afford a computer, and everyone who buys one has more money left over than he or she would have had a year ago. The first pocket calculators cost around $100, but today I can buy one at the checkout counter at the drug store for $1. These are examples of how competition brings economic benefit to the society as a whole.
Striving for Excellence
There is still another benefit to competition. God has created us with a desire to do well, and to improve what we are able to do. Competition spurs us on to do better, because we see others doing better and we decide we can do that too. An executive from a company that made mail-sorting machines once told me that his engineers thought they had made the fastest, quietest mail sorting machine possible—until he took them to watch a machine manufactured by a German company that was even faster and quieter. Then the engineers went back to work, determined to do even better. I think that God has made us with such a desire to strive for excellence in our work so that we would imitate his excellence more fully.
A kind of competition to try to do as well as or better than someone else seems to be what Solomon had in mind when he wrote, “Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor” (Eccles. 4:4). The term translated “envy” (in most translations) or “rivalry” (NASB) is the Hebrew word qin’åh, which can have either negative or positive moral connotations, depending on the context (much like our terms “jealousy” and “zeal”). Here it seems to have the sense “competitive spirit.” The verse does not say this is good or bad, only that it happens. (A different word, chåmad, is used in Exodus 20:17 when God says, “You shall not covet.”) People see what someone else has, and they decide to work harder themselves, or to gain better skills. In this way, competition spurs people on to better work, and they themselves prosper, and society prospers.
There is in fact a sort of mild “competition” implied in the testing of men before they become deacons: “And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless” (1 Tim. 3:10). If they do well in the time of testing (“if they prove themselves blameless”), then they can become deacons. If not, then they should find some other area of service within the church.
Competition seems to be the system God intended when he gave people greater talents in one area and gave other people greater talents in another area, and when he established a world where justice and fairness would require giving greater reward for better work.
Competition brings many opportunities to glorify God, as we try to use our talents to their full potential and thus manifest the God-like abilities that he has granted to us, with thankfulness in our hearts to him. Competition enables each person to find a role in which he or she can make a positive contribution to society and thus a role in which people can work in a way that serves others by doing good for them. Competition is thus a sort of societal functioning of God’s attributes of wisdom and kindness, and it is a way society helps people discover God’s will for their lives. Competition also enables us individually to demonstrate fairness and kindness toward others, even those with whom we compete.
Temptations to Sin
On the other hand, competition brings many temptations to sin. There is a difference between trying to do a job better than others, on the one hand, and trying to harm others and prevent them from earning a living on the other hand. There is nothing wrong with trying to run a better car repair shop than the one down the street, but there is a lot wrong with lying about the other mechanic, or stealing his tools, or in my heart seeking to do him harm.
Competition also brings temptations to pride, and to excessive work that allows no rest or time with family or with God. There is also the temptation to so distort life values that we become unable even to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
But the distortions of something good must not cause us to think that the thing itself is evil. These temptations to sin should not obscure the fact that competition in itself, within appropriate limits (some of which should be established by government), is good and pleasing to God, and provides many opportunities to glorify him.
This excerpt is adapted from Business for the Glory of God. Copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.org.
Posted: 28 Oct 2014 09:22 AM PDT
The rice fields became known as the “killing fields,” where Cambodians were forced to work during the dictatorship of Pol Pot. The Khmer Rouge guerrilla army massacred an estimated two to three million people—more than 15 percent of the population.
Thirty-five years later, Cambodia is still recovering from the gory civil war that lasted three years, eight months, and 28 days. The genocide nearly wiped out Christianity when the Khmer Rouge, in their desire to obliterate anything having to do with urban society, executed anyone with religious affinities. Of an estimated 10,000 Christians in 1974, only a few hundred remained.
Post-war years of oppression have made Cambodians spiritually hungry and open to the gospel. Although Buddhism is the predominant religion, Christianity is spreading throughout the country. Today there are approximately 470,000 Christians, and the number continues to grow.
College and Seminary in Phnom Penh
Cambodia still faces a lot of need. Ninety percent of the population lives in impoverished rural areas, with an average annual income of $256 USD. The Khmer Rouge’s elimination of education created a long-term lack of professionals and those with higher education. The church has felt this shortage, as many who desire to lead churches don’t have the necessary training.
In 2011 a group of retired pastors from the Korean American Presbyterian Church addressed the dire need for theologically-trained church leaders in Cambodia. They established Westminster Theological College and Seminary (WTCS) in Phnom Penh, the capital city. The school offers bachelor’s and master’s programs to (currently) 30 to 40 students.
Four times each year WTCS also provides a Pastoral Education Program with intensive theological and pastoral training. Each session draws 60 to 70 pastors from all over Cambodia.
Help through Packing Hope
Daniel Kim and his wife Young, also members of the Korean American Presbyterian Church, were introduced to WTCS through his brother-in-law, Rev. David Yuhan, who is Vice Chancellor of the seminary. After Daniel retired from pastoral ministry in 2003, the couple began serving as itinerant teaching missionaries. Although they live in California, they spend many months each year traveling overseas to seminaries and Bible schools to teach and train future church leaders. They’ve traveled intermittently to Cambodia since 2005. Three years ago they became faculty members at WTCS and now plan to stay in Cambodia three months out of each semester.
When the Kims’ journeyed to Cambodia in October–November of 2013, they brought along a case of ESV Global Study Biblesprovided by The Gospel Coalition International Outreach’s program Packing Hope. The couple hand-delivered a Bible to each WTCS student and observed their heartfelt gratitude for this gift and eagerness to use it.
When Daniel visited WTCS last May, he was pleased to see the students referring to the theological notes in the back of the Bible to aid in their teaching preparation and personal Bible study. One student, Caleb Zhu, said the new Bible is helping him “to understand God’s Word clearly and deeply.”
The seminary plans to expand the building and the student population as the church in Cambodia advances. “Workers are needed to teach, train, and mentor young men and women to become Christian leaders who would plant and build the Cambodian church, nation, society, and beyond,” Daniel says. He asks God to send more laborers into the harvest.
The fields of Cambodia, once “killing fields,” have given way to fields ready for sowing seeds of the gospel.
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