Celebration of Independence
Yesterday, July 20th, Colombia celebrated 202 years of independence from Spain. Colombians all around the country demonstrated their patriotic loyalty much like we do for our 4th of July celebrations in the USA. They enjoyed a day off from work, parades, time with family, massive feasts, and giving thanks for their freedom.
The story of their independence is a rather interesting one, revolving around a Venezuelan-born man named Simon Bolivar (who spent most of his time in Colombia and liberated 6 countries from Spain), and more interestingly, a conflict about a flower vase. Yes, a flower vase! You can read about that story here.
The battle for freedom in Colombia wages on.
I’m not talking about simply freedom from oppression from rebel groups, violence and political uprisings. Yes, that is what many focus on, but I’m talking about the freedom that Jesus speaks of in the Bible.
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
You see, Colombia, just like the rest of the world, has a root need for eternal freedom. If you look at the entire passage there in John 8, Jesus was speaking to the Jews who were religious. They had the right family heritage, being sons of Abraham. They had the law. They had the right customs and practices and they didn’t see their need for being made free.
But Jesus saw that they were indeed servants and slaves to sin, and of their father the Devil.
Pretty harsh words, aren’t they?
Set Free or Made Free?
No matter how hard we try, in our own effort, the best we can do is to be “set free” from sin. There’s a difference between that and what Jesus actually said. He said he would make us free!
Here’s a good way to picture it… If you were in prison paying for a crime that you committed and I came by with a bomb and blew the wall off to let you out, I would have set you free. The problem with that is, eventually they are going to come looking for you (and me) again to throw us both back behind bars. It would be a temporary fix.
But, what if I go and pay your penalty for you. I can then walk in the front doors with the warden, who reaches for his keys and lets you out, now a free person. You’ve been made free. There is a great difference! Because, now, there is no more condemnation (See Romans 8:1).
How are we made free? By Jesus Christ! He paid our penalty 100%. As long as we try to work our way to God, the best we can do is break free for a little bit. We can’t get completely free from sin, and we can’t get completely free from eternal condemnation.
But, thanks be to Jesus, he has already paid the price and offers to MAKE us free! The Bible calls that Justification. My record is cleaned. God’s books show that I am free. There is no more punishment for my sin. No condemnation.
Do you see the difference? That’s what Colombia (and the rest of the world) need to hear.
What about you?
Have you let Jesus make you free or are you still struggling along, trying to make it on your own. If you were to die today, would you spend eternity with God, or would you be found guilty. It all goes back to what you’re depending on. Are you depending on your works? Your religion? Your effort? Your family?
Jesus Christ died on the cross to buy your freedom. Why don’t you believe in that today? Don’t just believe that it happened, but put all your faith in what He has done and repent of your own effort. He said he’d make you free.
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36
If you need help or if you have questions about salvation and being made free, I and my family would love to help you and answer your questions. Leave a comment, send me a message or give me a call. I promise to respond because Jesus loves you, and I do too.
“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
2 Timothy 4:12
Christian Junior camp was always special to me. From the time I was 8 years old I’ve been able to enjoy at least one week a year of lots of preaching, fun games, new friends, Bible memory and lasting decisions for Christ. In fact, it was at a Junior camp when I was 11 that God called me to be a missionary!
Today was the last day of my church’s annual Junior Camp and they invited me in to preach the morning service. It was wonderful to sit in a room with 80 children and quite a few sleep-deprived teens and adults, all eager to hear the Word of God. They’ve already seen several saved this week and many make decisions for God. There were two more young men that acknowledged their need of salvation this morning. Will you pray with me that they settle that soon? The Holy Spirit was moving in their heart! Also, after I preached on Josiah this morning, over 30 kids and teens made decisions to step out and make a difference for God, to go against the world’s norm, and to surrender their life to Him. Hallelujah! Pray that these decisions will last and that God really will use them for His eternal Glory.
I often wondered as a child, “what can I do, being so young?” This has always brought me back to 1 Timothy 4:12. You see, being young isn’t the issue. Just as being tall, short, fat, skinny, black, white, ugly or pretty isn’t the issue. The issue is a perfect heart toward God. He can use anybody that’s willing to be used. And we, as Christians, need to realize that it’s not about us. It’s all about HIM! He can take the smallest tool and create a masterpiece. And when it comes down to it, that’s all we are–His tools. And it sure feels good to be a tool in the Master’s hand!
Let’s not discredit our young people. They are today’s harvest and tomorrows leaders.
Also, please pray for the Faith Factor Teen Camp my church hosts every year. This is for Middle and High school age young people and will take place in less than two weeks. We’re praying that God saves many, calls many to Christian service and works on all of our hearts in a special way. Check out the video that was put together for the camp here:
Monday morning I was greeted by the news. Every radio station I tuned in to, every news report I read, every person I spoke to seemed to be bursting at the seams with the news that Osama Bin-Ladin had been found and had been killed.
“USA!! USA!! USA!! USA!! USA!!” … The chants seemed to echo in every corner of the country. The enemy has been destroyed. After 10 years of playing hide-and-seek, justice has been served. The world celebrates.
But, how should Christians react to this news? Honestly, there’s a conflict in my mind as to how I should respond. On one hand, it is wonderful that this man has been stopped, and that no more innocent lives will be taken by his hand. But, I find it hard to celebrate. It hurts to know that another soul has dropped into hell, eternally separated from God.
I mean, does he deserve hell? Yes, of course!! But guess what…so do we!
What does the Bible say? Honestly you can find scripture for both sides of the matter.
“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” Ezekiel 18:23
“Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:” Proverbs 24:17
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?” Matthew 5:43-46
“When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting.” Proverbs 11:10
“The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.” Psalm 58:10
“And all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was in quiet: and they slew Athaliah with the sword beside the king’s house.” 2 Kings 11:20 (after an enemy of Israel was brought to justice)
“Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.” Deuteronomy 32:43
As God’s people, we are to realize several major things:
1. We all deserve God’s wrath and judgement. You’re a sinner just as much as Mr. Bin-Ladin was. You deserve hell. So do I. Even if we only offend in one point of the law, we are guilty of it all.
2. Justice will always be carried out. Whether here or in eternity, each sin must be accounted for before a perfect and Holy God. We know that God is good and will always do right.
3. Christ is our only hope. He paid the price for our sins. We were reconciled freely back to God through the righteousness of Christ himself. The only way I escape the judgement of God is because it was already poured out on Jesus on my behalf!
4. God is not willing that any should perish. Though each human must one day be judged, God’s desire is that they be reconciled, forgiven, justified and pardoned.
So, in all the celebration, we can rest assured that justice has been carried out. This justice is good and was deserved. But let us also mourn that another creature of God has perished. My hope is that Osama Bin-Ladin accepted Christ in his last moments of life, but we will never know that until we reach eternity. Enemies of God will be judged. But God desires for those same enemies to become his children by accepting the pardon of Christ. Will you pray with me that more enemies of the cross be reconciled by the cross?
“And how shall they hear without a preacher?”
Why do many of our converts fall away? Why is it that christian workers burn out? Why is there so much sin in the lives of most “believers”? Why is it so hard to find people willing to surrender their lives for the Lord Jesus Christ?
I sincerely believe that churches today are full of lost people. I would go even as far to say that many leaders of churches are as lost as the people they try to reach. Why is this?
Could it be that their perspective of the Gospel is warped?
I challenge you to find the time to read the following article. It is written by a great friend of mine who is a church-planter in North Africa. It will help your perspective, I promise.
You can check out the original article on my friend’s site by clicking here.
I have recently been appalled at how my independent Baptist brethren have got the Gospel only half right. What do I mean? Let me give you a few illustrations:
1. I heard a sermon recently where the preacher (Bible college grad from an ind. Bap. school) gave the following illustration: “If I were to offer to give you a year’s worth of provision for a minute’s worth of work, would it be a good deal for you? Sure. So God gives us provision for eternity, shouldn’t we serve him for this short lifetime?”
If you missed it, the Gospel is not: Serve me and I’ll give you eternal life. It’s not even: Serve me since I already gave you eternal life. Why? Well, in eternity we’ll serve him, too. No. The Gospel is a new heart. A new life. New desires. From Ezekiel to John 3 to the writings of Paul we learn that the whole point of the New Covenant is that we will WANT to serve him if we’re born again. He will put a new heart in us and we won’t turn back to the old heart of sin (Jer. 3:17). This is a changed life! Not a life that serves God in exchange for eternal life. That is the motivation for all false religion. We have nothing to bring to God. He brings everything to us in the Gospel and makes us alive “unto good works” (Eph. 2:8-10)
2. I heard a song recently where the line repeated was this: “I am satisfied with you. I hope you’ll be satisfied with me.” I love the dear brother (also a grad of an Ind. Baptist college and a missionary) who sang this. In love I have to say, God is already satisfied with you! That’s why Jesus came! He satisfies God for you. He makes you satisfactory. (Rom. 3:25, 5:1, I Jn 2:2, 4:10) Then he frees you from a life of needing to work to satisfy God. God sees you as perfect, just, and completely whole. Now the motivation to serve him is a heart overflowing with thanks for his kindness, mercy, and blessings! (Is. 63:7)
This is natural in the life of a believer in Christ. No, we don’t need to work to satisfy God. In fact, could our work ever satisfy God? No, only the work of the cross. It didn’t only satisfy God concerning our salvation but it also satisfied God concerning our life as “Christ followers”. God is satisfied with his blood washed children. Don’t think your service as a missionary is what satisfies him with you. Christ’s service on the cross already did that.
Don’t the Muslims in North Africa need to know that working to obey Allah’s laws won’t satisfy him? Don’t they need freedom from a life of striving? Don’t the Buddhists of SouthEast Asia need to know that doing good works won’t help them reach Nirvana having satisfied the Creators demands through Buddha’s Four Nobel Truths? Don’t they need freedom from that sort of life of striving? Don’t the Hindu’s of the Indian Subcontinent need peace with God without the sacrifices and the works on the Ganges river? The missionary message is that God’s demands have been satisfied in Christ! We satisfy God when Christ is in us! His blood! His cross!
3. I recently heard another preacher (well-known and respected) preach these words exactly: “The security of our salvation is up to God. The assurance of our salvation is up to us. When we are living right we will know we are saved. When we aren’t living right we will doubt it. So then, the Bible teaches works assurance.”
Would it be, then, ok to say, “For by works are you assured of salvation through your efforts. That, not of God, it is the result of hard work.” (see Eph 2:8-9 for a reference)? I don’t think so. My salvation was a work of God by grace. My new life in Christ is work of God by grace. My assurance is a work of God by grace. The whole life of a Christian from beginning to end is a work of God by grace! Doesn’t Phil 1:6 teach us that he who began the good work in us (John 1:13) is the same one who completes it? Not of works, lest any Christian should boast.
Here are a few reasons I think we as Ind. Baptists miss the Gospel so badly:
1. At it’s root, we have understood salvation to be a prayer of acceptance that saves us. Since the Holy Spirit, repentance, and the new birth (new heart, new desires) don’t play a large part in salvation, then neither do they play a large part in the rest of our lives.
2. As a result of this root we have a lot of people who aren’t born again, don’t have the Holy Spirit of God living in them, and we try to get them to continue by the power of the flesh by works (Gal. 3:3). The only way left to motivate them is by scolding them or by making them feel guilty. “You have been given eternal life in exchange for a simple prayer, shouldn’t you then work harder in exchange!” is the common logic.
I think it’s time we square up with the Bible and stop trying to assure lost people that they are saved. The message of the Gospel is, “You will know them by their fruit.” If a person is saved they WILL want to serve God with all their hearts. They just need to know how. They need someone to walk with them and help them learn to walk in the grace of the Gospel the same way they were saved. We don’t need to work on their fruit, we need to look at the root.
The grace of the Gospel is not only for salvation it’s also for sanctification. It’s all of God. He has made me a new person and now I serve him out of this new heart. I serve him out of overwhelming thanks. God is satisfied with Christ in me. The work I do is Christ living in me. In myself is no good thing. When I understand Christ’s work in me and I am more and more consumed with a desire to serve him. That’s the new covenant. That’s the new heart he’s given me. It began with Him and will end with Him.
Here are a few verses to help you contemplate the work of the New Covenant in your sanctification:
Ezekiel 11: 19-21 ”And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: 20 That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord GOD.”
Jeremiah 3:15-17 “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more. 17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.
Philippians 1:5-7 “ For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; 6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: 7 Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.”
Today we went to la Iglesia “La Biblia Dice…” (“The Bible Says” Church) and got to meet some new friends. This is a Baptist church that was started by a missionary, Paul Clark 26 years ago (the church’s anniversary was today), and God has blessed in huge ways. The church has been pastored for a while now by a Colombian man who was reached through the ministry and they have about 1,000 people, with two services that are packed to capacity every week. They have sent out many people from the church to start more churches and have dozens of daughter and granddaughter works around Colombia and in Venezuela. Their goal is “Colombia Para Cristo en 5 Años” (Colombia for Christ in 5 years). They are well on their way!
After church, Pastor Rudy Garrido and his precious family took us out to eat and then to their home for a wonderful time of fellowship. God is using this man in an incredible way.
He explained to me the three stages of discipleship that has become the heart of their ministry. When somebody accepts Christ they are invited to an “induction” course. They meet once a week, either on Monday or Saturday, and go through 8 lessons that teach mostly about salvation, eternal security, baptism and church membership. These lessons are taught in a group setting by one of the church leaders.
After these 8 weeks, most of these people are baptized and join the church, then are invited to be involved in a more thorough one-on-one discipleship series of 13 lessons. The people teaching these lessons are people who have gone through all three levels of discipleship themselves and can identify with the individual on a personal level. A taxi driver would disciple another taxi driver. A housewife would disciple another housewife. A businessman would disciple another businessman. etc… These lessons deal with the basics of the Christian life and get people well founded in what they believe and how to explain to others what they believe.
Then, the third level of disciple ship is a series of 16 lessons that go very deep into the Christian faith, getting people well familiar with the theology of salvation, having a strong prayer life, how to do in-depth Bible study, evangelism methods, etc. When people come out of these lessons, they are able to comfortably teach others in the one-on-one courses.
Furthermore, the church offers more classes for going deeper in one’s Christian life. The series they’re going through now is “¿Quién Es Dios?” or, Who is God? Even the pastor and his wife go to this and it is almost like another church service, with about 300 going through this at any given time.
People get saved every week. There were about 15 that were saved today! The church is involved in many outreach programs, going on mini missions trips around Colombia, soul winning in local parks (they give people a free bottle of water if they’ll give them 5 minutes in return lol), conferences for young people and so many other things. Most of the people who visit, are saved and get involved in the ministry are personal friends and contacts of the church’s members. They teach a lifestyle evangelism. Not just one day a week. It’s a whole manner of life.
This is truly an incredible ministry. A ministry we might like to learn from even more, if God permits.
Be praying for God to direct us as to His perfect Will. We definitely need His guidance.
Tomorrow we will be meeting with Freddy Nieto, another national pastor here in Bogotá, then hopefully visiting the ministry that ABWE has here along with their Bible College. We’ll keep you posted!