How to Pray for #SBC21

This coming Tuesday and Wednesday registered messengers from all over will join together in Nashville, Tennessee for the annual Southern (Great Commission) Baptist Convention. For those unfamiliar with Baptist polity, this will be a well-attended business meeting. Reports indicate that approximately “20,000 messengers and guests” will be in attendance. I will be in attendance as a guest not a messenger, but this does not mean that I am absolved to pray for unity.

SBC President and my pastor, J.D. Greear, believes this will be one of the most important annual meetings that “will determine the basis for SBC unity.” My goal for this post is to encourage all who read it to that end. To specifically, pray for unity at #SBC21.

In John 17:20-21, Jesus prayed, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21 ESV). This verse has been in my mind and on my heart leading up to this annual meeting. My prayer is that as we come together, we come with a spirit “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Think of it like this, that we pray to be an answer to Jesus’s prayer for us in the Gospel of John.

I would like to show you two ways to pray leading up to and during SBC21:

  1. Pray we would be one (John 17:21). Jesus was asking the Father as he prayed for not only the disciples with him that day, but also “for those who will believe in me through their word” (John 17:20). Did you see that? Jesus prayed in this prayer for future disciples, which includes those who have placed their faith in Jesus going to the annual meeting in 2021. What a humbling thought to know that Jesus prayed for our oneness. May we all pray with this type of fervency for oneness going into and coming out of this meeting. Yes, there will be disagreements on issues, but when these discussions arise, we will be in a better position to work them out if unity is our desired outcome.
  2. Pray the world will see Jesus in our meeting (John 17:21b). Look one more time with me at John 17:21. Jesus’s prayer states, “so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21b, emphasis added). Unity reaches a community for Christ. Many people will be watching this meeting with great interest, but in our prayer for unity, may they see Jesus who came to reconcile sinners to God. Jesus’s emphasis at the end of this prayer is missional. Jesus says it again, “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:23). Pray that our unity (our witness) at this convention in 2021 would bring others into God’s Kingdom through the perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

As I stated earlier, my goal is that all who read this would take a moment to pray for unity at SBC21. May the world see the gospel in action during this time in Nashville, Tennessee. Thank you for joining in me in prayer over the next several days.

Review of Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship by John MacArthur

This book could be considered by some to be outdated since it was written in 2013, but the Charismatic Movement remains a prevalent false theology that permeates society today. Renowned theologian, John MacArthur, has such concern for the unbiblical views of this movement that he decided to both confront the theology and leaders within this … Continue reading Review of Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship by John MacArthur

A Common Mistake Believers Make When Sharing Their Testimony

The other week I was sitting in our small group, and I made this comment, “When sharing your testimony, do not glorify sin because it will take away from the glory of the Savior who redeemed you.” I was asked by one of our small group members to further explain my statement. The context of this discussion came out of our group studying Ephesians 2. In our discussion, we challenged each other to share our testimonies using Ephesians 2 as our guide (i.e., life before Christ, salvation in Christ, and life after Christ).

At the beginning of this chapter Paul states:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Ephesians 2:1-3

Notice how Paul talks about all people before he gets to conversion in Ephesians 2:4-9. He uses words like “dead,” worldly, followers of Satan, “disobedient,” “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,” and “by nature children of wrath.” What do all these words have in common? Sins destructive power in our lives. All the brokenness we see in our lives, in our world, in our relationships, in our minds, in our hearts, can be traced back to Adam’s sin in Genesis 3:6-7. When Adam fell, the entire human race fell with him as Paul taught in Romans 5:12, and thus, we live out our deadness in life prior to Christ.

The Common Mistake

How does this impact the way we share our testimony? Many times Christians will talk about their sinful past with a sense of pride. Believers will almost relish in how much they used to drink or party or (fill in the sin here). They will almost present Ephesians 2:1-3 to unbelievers in a positive light. In my statement above, I call this the glorification of sin because we elevate sin to a level that doesn’t seem so destructive.

I understand that it is tempting to glorify sin. In some ways, we are connecting with those who are still in Ephesians 2:1-3. Many Christians who glorify sin in their testimony may have positive motivations for doing so. They might be trying to establish a connection with the person or try to show the unbeliever how “bad” they were before Christ redeemed them (Eph. 2:4-9). I think this is a common mistake when believers share their testimony with others.

The mistake resides in taking glory away from our Savior, Jesus Christ. The main problem I see with the glorification of sin in a testimony is that this type of wording portrays sin in a positive light to the unregenerate person. If we paint sin with a sense of pride, why would an unbeliever repent of it and turn to Jesus? Think of it like this: A lost person hears us boastfully speak about how much we used to sin, but now we are saved by God’s grace in Christ. An unbeliever will ask themselves the question: If they talk about sin in this way why would I need to stop sinning and turn my life over to Jesus? This seems to degrade the gospel of its life giving message.

My point is that when we glorify sin in a testimony we take away from the glory of Jesus Christ who came to save us from our sin. To pull us out of Ephesians 2:1-3 by Ephesians 2:4-9 so that we can live in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Therefore, we need to think rightly about how to share our Ephesians 2:1-3 experience when we are sharing our testimony.

A Better Way Forward

The way forward is the reduction of glorifying sin in our testimonies and sharing how living in Ephesians 2:1-3 brought about extreme brokenness in our lives. Unbelievers will understand that truth, and will follow that realization with a question: How do I get out of this vicious cycle of hurt and pain that comes from “being dead in … trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1)? When an unbeliever gets to this question, the opportune moment has arrived for the gospel to be shared. To put it another way, tell them about the glory of the Savior who heals and redeems all people who call upon his name (Romans 10:9-13).

Let me provide an example of what this looks like: Let’s say you were a classical utilitarian. This type of lifestyle seeks to elevate pleasure and/or happiness and reduce pain and suffering. In other words, do whatever makes you feel good and avoid anything that makes you suffer as long as it doesn’t effect the happiness of those around you. The problem with this philosophical worldview is that no matter how much happiness you try to gain, suffering and pain always accompany these types of actions. For example, when people consume large amounts of alcohol, they may experience happiness for a short amount of time, but the next day they will experience the effects of pain that the alcohol takes on the body. They sought pleasure through sin, but in the end, it only brought them pain and suffering.

The other issue is that no matter how much pleasure or happiness you seek it will never be enough. By indulging your sinful desires of the mind and body, you will still feel like something is missing. So, you continually seek more ways to live out your classical utilitarian worldview, but nothing ever satisfies. Eventually, you will find yourself like the prodigal son in Luke 15–completely broken and longing to be fed. When this type of lifestyle begins to take its toll on your life and relationships, you begin to show the person that you are witnessing to how sin only brings destruction. Therefore, you needed a way out of your classical utilitarian worldview, and you found that salvation and new life in Jesus Christ by God’s grace (Eph. 2:4-9).

Do you see how this is a better way forward when sharing your testimony? You are not glorifying sin by making it sound like a good thing. You are explaining how living in Ephesians 2:1-3 brought about severe pain, suffering, and destruction in every area of your life. Lost people can relate to all of that, but as a Christian, you get the privilege in that moment to extend to them the only hope that will pull them out of the destructive spiral they are experiencing, and his name is Jesus Christ. Therefore, use this better way forward to go and make disciples who make disciples in Jesus’ name when sharing your testimony.

5 Helpful Tips for Scripture Meditation

Though God in this threefold revelation has provided answers to our questions concerning Him, the answers by no means lie on the surface. They must be sought by prayer, by long meditation on the written Word, and by earnest and well-disciplined labor. However brightly the light may shine, it can be seen only by those who are spiritually prepared to receive it.

A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 14.

Tozer’s words remind us that we must think well when it comes to knowing God as he has revealed himself through Scripture and through the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ (John 1:14). The Knowledge of the Holy encourages believers to meditate on God’s Word. With Tozer’s writing in mind, when is the last time you just sat and thought about God? Admittedly, taking time to sit and think or just thinking in general does not come easy to us who live in a fast-paced American culture.

The internet has exacerbated our thinking problems, and social media has, in some sense, taken away our time to just sit and think due to our fear of missing out in the online world. To illustrate the busyness of the American culture, I was pastoring a church a few years ago, and I had them sit in silence after the service ended for about a minute. The silence made some people in the room uncomfortable–including me–because our lives are so “noisy” with everything happening around us.

My goal in this post is to provide you with 5 helpful tips that I have utilized when meditating on God’s Word. This week, I decided to sit down and think about and write down what God tells us about himself as our Father. The concept I wrestled with was: Lord, please help me understand the attributes about you as my heavenly Father that you have revealed to me in Scripture.

Here are the 5 steps that I implemented during this time of meditation that I hope you will find helpful in your own spiritual walk with Jesus.

  1. Pray. Prayer is probably the most important step when it comes to meditating on Scripture. Praying before you meditate allows you to get into a posture of submission before approaching God’s Word so that the Holy Spirit will illuminate the text for you. A good way to open in prayer would be to ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to his Word, and to expose the glory of God and exalt Jesus during your study. We should not approach meditation as merely an academic exercise or the emptying of our thoughts, but rather as growing in our relationship with the living God by learning more about who he says he is in the Bible.
  2. Read. Depending upon what you are trying to accomplish in your time of meditation, read the Bible passage over and over again. For example, if you decide to meditate on one text of Scripture, consume yourself with reading it as many times as possible. If you are going to take a topic (like I did), read all the passages you can that convey that subject. To put it in the context of this article, read all the passages in Scripture that discuss God as Father by using a concordance. Immersing yourself in God’s Word will help you with the next tip–thinking.
  3. Think. As you read, think. Take a moment to pause and reflect upon what you just read. Thinking correlates with meditating. Take time to really give yourself a mental workout by concentrating on what the text says and what God meant when he wrote it. Meditating will not be easy work because during this time, we are thinking about an infinite God as finite human beings. We are trying to grow in our love and knowledge of God, which will be difficult work because we have so many things in life that prevent us from learning more about our Lord who is holy. However, the difficulty of this act should not prevent us from doing it as believers, but rather challenge us to work at it so that we will do it well.
  4. Write. This point has two concepts associated with it. First, writing will help you as you think. Write your thoughts down in a journal and read over your words. Are you thinking about God correctly? What is God teaching you about himself? Moreover, keep writing until your mind feels like it has nothing left–then, read and write some more. Second, writing down your thoughts will allow you to remember and reflect at a later time what you have meditated on in the past. When you return to your thoughts at a later date, you will be amazed at one of two realities: 1) how much you have grown in your walk with God, and 2) recalling the biblical attributes of God that you had forgotten since the time of your writing. I highly recommend getting a prayer and meditation journal to do this activity because you can go back and physically see how God is working in your life.
  5. Pray. Before you end your time of meditation, pray. Thank God for that precious time with him in his Word. Show gratitude to God for what you have learned about him during this activity. Praise God for opening your heart and mind even if you feel it was only a little. Meditating on God’s Word should never be considered time wasted because God’s Word always works in our lives. Of course, we will have better days than others, but we need to remember we are growing in our relationship with an infinite God so enjoy the process and do not be too hard on yourself. In whatever God reveals in his Word during this time of devotion, praise and thank him for it when you are done.

The list I have provided may not be exhaustive when it comes to meditating on the truths found within God’s Word, but perhaps it will help some readers who have never included this form of spiritual discipline into their personal time of devotion. My encouragement for those who have never practiced meditating on the Word of God is to start out slow and build as you grow. Our fast-paced American society has hurt us in the area of sitting still, in silence, and thinking about God. Therefore, it will take time to overcome our busy habits, but spending uninterrupted time meditating on the truths of Scripture will be a joyful experience as you reflect on a living God who desires to walk with you in life and who has saved you from your sin through Jesus Christ.

“For as the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11