Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Declare~chapter 1

Declare ~

God’s Command to His Church

Sovereign Grace believes we should be committed to declaring the Gospel we delight in.

We all experience delight at some point in our lives. Whether it is in a person, a thing, or a moment in time, we can readily recall times when we’ve delighted in someone or something. In those extraordinary moments of exceeding joy and pleasure, we must express our delight through some means. Is it not impossible, if you’re truly delighting in something, to not exclaim your delight? I can remember some specific moments where I could not but declare my delight to others:

When I first got a car…

When I first got accepted into college…

When Teresa said she wanted to date me…

When I first got engaged…

When I graduated from college…

When I first came to Christ…

Every time I was delighting in something or someone, I told other people: I declared what happened! We declare what we delight in! Truly delighting necessitates declaring!

A Biblical example of this kind of declaration can be found in Psalm 119. The Psalmist is continually declaring what he delights in:

“In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches…” (Psalm 119:14)

“I will delight in your statues; I will not forget your word.” (v. 16)

“Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.” (v. 24)

“With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.” (v. 13)

“I will speak of your testimonies before kings…” (v. 46)

“My lips will pour fourth praise, for you teach me your statues…” (v. 171)

Why is it that we always declare what we delight in? Is it the overwhelming sense of emotion and excitement that causes us to tell people of our delight? Is it an overwhelming sense of the value of the object of our delight? Declaring one’s delight is certainly not unique to Christians. What, then, separates Christian declaration from the world’s declaration, and how are we as Sovereign Grace Church going to declare our delight?

I. Declaring finds its source in delighting.

Before we consider what it means to declare as Christians and then as a church, let us remind ourselves briefly as to what God-centered delight looks like – how could we begin to declare if we do not understand what it is we are declaring?

A Perverse Delight

Consider the story of the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-42. Her life consisted of one marriage relationship after another (a total of five in all, not including the adulterous relationship she was presently in) (John 4:16-19). She had been delighting in relationships as an alternative god; this woman had been looking for satisfaction through physical intimacy and relationship. Was it wrong for her to desire to be married, to have companionship? No! But she turned a thing created good into an ultimate thing… and sinned to get it! Satan’s whole project is to take God’s creation, which is meant to point us to God, and convince us to worship it, to delight in it as an end in itself! The Samaritan woman had a perverse and twisted delight in an idolatrous god of adultery. She tried to achieve delight in her own way, not God’s

We too can be guilty of this same perversion. When we delight in anything other than God the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, we abandon the eternal source of delight. We, like the Samaritan woman, try to do things our own way, searching for our own source of delight. As the prophet Jeremiah writes,

for my people have committed two evils:

they have forsaken me,

the fountain of living waters

and hewed out cisterns for themselves,

broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:13)

We dig our own wells to quench our thirst; trying to fill ourselves with the promises of the world (sex, wealth, relationship, beauty, fame, happiness, entertainment etc.) we become hopelessly engrossed in finding the next means of satisfying ourselves as we waste away apart from God. Cut off from our Creator who sustains us, we slowly atrophy in this world until the dust takes us and our souls remove to an eternity of death where there is no delight and no deliverance. On and on it goes. From one thing to the next we search for a satisfying object for our delight. We continue trying to find satisfaction for our hunger in the world rather than seeing all those as gifts from our kind God in whom is fullness of joy! If we would just hunger and thirst for God then we would be satisfied!

A Worshipful Delight

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

(Matthew 5:6)

Jesus points out that we look to this world and what it offers for satisfaction / delight, and says we should be looking to God who will provide the only thing that truly satisfies. He tells the Samaritan woman in John 4:13-14 that Holy Spirit will be given and he will satisfy – the creation won’t satisfy what only the Creator will (John 7:37). Only the living water of Jesus himself will satisfy our parched souls that have sought relief in every false and vain cistern dug by sinful men in their delusion. We can find full satisfaction in his living waters from which no one will ever thirst again. True satisfaction comes from true worship of God…it comes from delight in God! Jesus points out the Samaritan woman’s sin and the fact that she was delighting in sexual relationships and that she must delight in him to be satisfied. To worship the only God by delighting in his character and his work is to have true, redeemed, rightful delight and satisfaction. In John 4 Jesus cuts to the heart of worshipful delight: true worshippers worship God in spirit and truth. What matters to the Father is that he is worshipped in spirit and truth! Location doesn’t matter (John 4:21), the heart matters, and the heart is the seat of our delight. With the truth of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit we may have God-honoring, worshipful delight!

Jesus is your only hope! Repent of delighting in the creation and turn to delighting in the Creator, recognize that Jesus lived perfectly, paid your penalty, rose from the dead so you can be forgiven, counted righteous, made spiritually alive, and given the Holy Spirit who will be a spring of living water that will well up to eternal life!

II. Declare!

When the Samaritan woman trusted Jesus, what did she do immediately? When Jesus spoke these words to the Samaritan woman (John 4:16-26), she responded immediately. Her delight having been re-informed by the words of Jesus, she could do nothing but declare what he had said. Her new found delight became the source of her declaration. She went and declared: “he told me all I ever did!” Not ashamed and hiding her sin, she was thankful that he brought her out of it, and she wanted people to know that he knew her sin and still offered her eternal life and delight! She knew the greatness of her sin and she knew the greater grace of God in Jesus Christ. She knew that her sin was greater than she wanted to admit and God’s grace in Christ was greater than she ever imagined! She could run through town and say, “Look what Jesus offered me and gave me! Look how great he is! I don’t need to protect myself, and hide, and stay in this prison of dissatisfaction and sin. Look how good he is to me!” Because of the woman’s declaration of salvation in Jesus, many of the Samaritans in that town believed in him also (John 4:39-42). The Samaritan woman was faithful to declare the marvelous delight she found in Christ Jesus the savior of the world. Sovereign Grace, we too must take this great salvation and declare it to the world.

What do we Declare?

With our new delight in Christ Jesus, brought out of the darkness of idols into his marvelous light, we must declare the Gospel by which we have been saved. As the Apostle Peter writes, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9). What are we to do as a “chosen race” and a “royal priesthood”, a “holy nation” and a “people for his own possession”? What is the outcome of our salvation? Declare his excellencies! You have been saved that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you! Having been filled with the delight of Jesus, we must now engage in his work. Just as Jesus delights in seeing the Father’s glory declared, so should we. Just as Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:33), so we are also to make our lives instruments and tools to accomplish the work and the will of our heavenly Father. This is the cause of our declaration; we love the Father by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Lord Jesus Christ by his gracious regeneration of our hearts, so we are compelled to declare that glory that he has shown in us. God has shown the light of his Gospel in our hearts (II Corinthians 4:6) and that light will overflow in our declaration (Matthew 5:14-16). That is why the Samaritan woman declared, and that is why we as the church declare.

To Whom do we Declare?

Now that we’ve seen why we declare and what it is that we declare, we must consider who gets to hear our declaration. In the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, we can see that Jesus delights to see all peoples delight in the Father through him. The Samaritan people were considered reprehensible and unclean by the Jews. Therefore the Jews expected Jesus to avoid Samaria and all Samaritans in his ministry since they would defile him. Not only that, but the Jews would never have spoken with a Samaritan woman! Yet Jesus brings salvation for all people, and we must declare that message to all people. This is why Jesus proclaimed his Gospel to Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, two very opposite peoples of society. Jesus preached to Jews and Gentiles, and he commands his disciples to do the same (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8; Romans 1:5).

III. Declaring at Sovereign Grace

So how are we as a church fulfilling Jesus’ command to declare his Gospel to all people? There are two major spheres in which we as a church actively declare our delight in Jesus Christ.

Declare Locally

Bakersfield is a most immediate target for declaring the Gospel. Sovereign Grace seeks to reach out to the surrounding communities with the Gospel through individual outreach and church planting. A distinctive of Sovereign Grace Church is our strong emphasis on the Gospel needs of our neighbors here in Bakersfield – they are just as lost as any sinners, and we are called to bring the living water of Jesus Christ to them. Personal evangelism to those we live around is a necessary component of our ministry as a church and as Christians. We also will be offering organized outreach opportunities to corporately declare our delight to those who have none outside of Christ, as well as ongoing mercy ministries to those in need in our communities.

Yet our desire to declare the Gospel goes beyond personal evangelism; we regularly support the collective church planting efforts of local church planters. Our participation in the Acts 29 organization reflects our sincere desire to see the kingdom of God spread through the spreading of churches across our town, state, and country, as well as the entire world. Wherever God gives us an opportunity to further the declaration of himself, we want to be ready for the task. We are interested in whoever God puts in our path, knowing that he desires all people to be saved.

Declare Globally

However, we do not simply want to end our missionary work within the borders of our city, county, state, or country. We take seriously God’s desire for the Gospel to go forth into all the nations that he might have worshipers of all nationalities (Revelation 5:9). This is why we desire to help build up the church in other countries. We invest our efforts regularly and diligently into foreign missions. Our first full-time missionary, Dan Healy, is currently ministering in Guniea Bissau, Africa, in order to provide medical relief to the people and to help equip the church to reach their local populations who do not know Christ. In addition, we have invested our time and finances considerably into Grace Bible College in India where they train up Indian ministers to pastor local congregations and spread the news of Jesus to their own countrymen. It is also our dream to build up a center for training people to send them out into the unreached people groups of the world. There are approximately 247 unreached people groups on the plant ranging from 100,000 to 13,000,000 people each. God commands us to take the delight he has given us in Christ Jesus and declare that delight to the world.

We can so easily be caught up with all that is going on with us in life that we begin to delight in and hope in those things and lose sight of what should be our primary delight, the Father! As we delight in him, we will want to see others sharing in that worship and delight, we will want to obey, we fill find joy in obedience to his command that we preach the Gospel to every people, and we will find joy in seeing people turn from sin to Jesus as their hope! There is no greater joy for the one who delights in God than to see other people turn from finding their joy in this world to finding their delight in the one true God and savior. So, let’s delight together in God through Jesus and go declare our delight to the world!

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