Faithful for the Future Day Twenty-One

Today is the final day of this 21-day devotional. We exist to Disciple for God’s Great Commission. We do this by going, baptizing, and teaching for transformation. We also desire to present everyone mature in Christ. We seek to engage the lostness right here in Northeastern Colorado.


As a church, we are not satisfied with just making disciples in Northeast Colorado, but we are commanded to make disciples of all nations of the world. Our vision is global, because God’s vision is global.


Read Matthew 28:19-20


Notice that according to the Great Commission we are to make disciples of all nations. Not just here in our own backyard in Sterling. But as a Great Commission church we are to be engaged all over the globe. Whether that be in India, Russia, Nicaragua, or any other places with unreached people groups.


We have to have a “both/and” strategy. We need to be an Acts 1:8 type of church.


Acts 1:8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”


We cannot be content or satisfied with a very myopic and limited view of missions and disciple-making. We need to have strategies as a church that hit Jerusalem. What are we doing right here in Sterling to impact our community? How are we engaging lostness here and making disciples?
But also, how are we impacting the state of Colorado? The United States? Canada? The ends of the earth?
Our mandate as a Great Commission church is to make disciples of all nations.


Are you praying for our missionary partners in Russia, India, and South Asia? Maybe God is calling you to go on one of our next overseas trips!


The final critical issue in relation to being a Great Commission church is this: As a church, we can be successful the way God defines success because of the authority and the presence of our Lord Christ!

This gives me great confidence because when I look at the task before us it is daunting. Making disciples of all the nations of the world!!! Engaging a lost culture with the gospel!! I faint just thinking about it. And the beauty of being a Great Commission church is that Christ promises His authority and His presence so that we are not alone. It is by His grace and power that we can accomplish this.


Notice in Matthew 28:18 that Jesus tells us that all authority has been given to Him. By virtue of the gospel—His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus has been endowed with ultimate authority and sovereignty. So as we engage culture, make disciples, and become a Great Commission church, we go, preach, teach, engage, share, love, invest, and pray in the authority of Jesus. He is our Commander in Chief and we submit to Him.
But not only does Christ promise His authority but His very presence. In verse 20, he promises to be with us always to the end of the age.


He is with us. He goes before us. He undergirds us. He sent His Spirit to indwell and empower us. He is with us. Always.


In order for us to be a Great Commission church, it requires that you become a Great Commission Christian.


Let me ask you some questions:


  • Will you see your mandate to make disciples?
  • Are you growing yourself as a disciple?
  • Are you burdened by the idolatry that you see around and you want to rescue these POW’s?
  • Are you overcome with compassion for the lost?
  • Are you willing to engage this lostness through building bridges, and being salt and light and sharing the gospel?
  • Are you living in the confidence that the authority and the presence of Jesus goes before you and that He will be with you always, even to the end of the age?


John 17:18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.


John 20:21  Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Jesus has sent us into the world to engage lostness with the gospel. Let us pray that we will be intentional, loving, compassionate, and clear as we communicate the good news of His death, burial, and resurrection to a lost and dying world.


Let’s review our mission statement as Emmanuel: We exist to (1) display God’s glory, (2) declare God’s gospel, and (3) disciple for God’s Great Commission.


Would you wholeheartedly embrace this mission in your personal life as well as your involvement with Emmanuel?


This 21-day journey has been about refocusing on our mission as a church. And we can accomplish this mission with our without a physical building. But God in His providence has led us to build our current building as a tool for ministry.


In order to be faithful for the future, would you prayerfully consider committing financially above your tithe for the next 2 years to pay down the debt?


More importantly, would you continue to embrace God’s biblical mission for our church as we display God’s glory, declare God’s gospel, and disciple for God’s Great Commission.


Spend some time in prayer asking for wisdom from the Lord to give you direction about how you will move forward in obedience to Him.




Faithful for the Future Day Twenty

Let’s finish exploring how Paul engaged the lost culture in Athens.


Read Acts 17:16-34


After Paul confronts their sin of idolatry, he urges them to repent because there is a day of judgment. There is a Savior who is the Judge. And this is all possible because of the resurrection.


While Paul was very engaging, and non-threatening at first using their poets and trying to build bridges, he still preached the exclusivity of Christ. He preached sin, repentance, the exclusivity of Christ, the resurrection and the judgment.


This was totally foreign to them. In Greek thought, there was no idea of a end times judgment. That didn’t compute. The idea that after death all people would stand before the judgment seat of Christ was an alien concept.
Much like people today who do not believe in heaven or hell or bristle at the thought of judgment.


Resurrection didn’t make any sense to them either because matter was evil. If Paul would have talked about the immortality of the soul living off in the ether of outerspace or some New Age after life in the spirit world, they would have gotten into this.


But to have a crucified Christ die, and then come back to life in a physical body was offensive to them.


So what was the response? We see three.


First of all we see contempt. They mocked him.


Secondly, we see curiosity. Some wanted to hear more.


Lastly, we see conversion. A small number believed and were saved.


And that’s what we face today when we engage lost culture.


Contempt, curiosity and conversion. And we need to be prepared for that as a Great Commission Church.


We need to engage culture, address issues of idolatry, present the whole gospel, and do this in winsome and creative ways to build bridges of understanding.


Who in your life right now can you engage with the gospel? Who can you commit to make a disciple of Jesus?


Faithful for the Future Day Nineteen

Let’s continue with our passage in Acts.


Read Acts 17:16-34


What’s his opening line? How does Paul engage them?


I see that you guys are very religious. Now in the Greek this is a very vague term. Paul is not necessarily complimenting them or putting them down. He is purposely vague to see how they would respond.
In our culture, we would say something like this, “I see that you’re very spiritual.” Nobody in our culture wants to be seen as religious, but they will readily embrace being spiritual.


And then he brings to their attention an idol he saw that was to the “unknown god.” Remember this is the world of Zeus and Diana and Hermes and Apollo. This is the pantheon of Greek gods. If you wanted to go on a sea voyage, you prayed to Poiseidon to give you safe travel. If you were giving a speech, you would pray to Hermes. You would never give your allegiance to just one god. That was stupid in their eyes because you may make them mad. If you give too much attention to one god, another god might get jealous and punish you. And so in order to not live in fear and to make sure that all their bases were covered, they had the blanket “unknown god” just in case there was a god out there that they would be sure not to offend.


Paul subtly and gently confronts their ignorance. He doesn’t ream them for their stupidity and wrong-headed thinking. He tells them that he is going to make known to them the one true God.


And Paul starts with creation. While he doesn’t quote Bible verses, everything that Paul shares is directly from the Bible and paints an accurate picture of God. But he argues that there is only one God and He is the Creator, Sustainer, and Sovereign over all creation. He is the Lord of heaven and earth and he cannot be contained in a temple.


Verse 25 is very interesting. God is not served by human hands as if he needed anything. But what do we do in our culture?


We “de-God” God and dethrone God and make us the center of the universe. We want God whoever he is to serve us. We live for ourselves.


So Paul continues to articulate the sovereignty of God in creation and His providence in forming nations, and races, and boundaries of where people live. God has done all of this—He has revealed Himself in nature and creation so that men will seek Him.


Then Paul actually quotes from their own poets and philosophers. Paul knew the literature. Paul made appropriate connections to their entertainment, to explain God.


He quotes Epimenides the Cretan poet and then gives a line from Aratus who wrote a poem about Zeus.


Now we must be careful here. Paul is not saying that these pagan poets understood God and that their beliefs inform Paul’s theology. What Paul is doing is finding points of connection with his culture in order to give more truth. He is trying to win a hearing. He is trying to show that he is culturally relevant. That he knows what is going on.
I’m not advocating that you have to be an expert in culture and know everything about everything and know the latest music, and fads and see every single movie, but you need to at least know enough to engage lost people. You need to be informed, without being tainted.


Verse 29 is the key to Paul’s sermon. He now begins to address their real issue—idolatry.


There are two ways Paul could have approached this issue of sin.


He could have given them the law. He could have used the Ten Commandments as the starting point and showed them how they had broken God’s laws.


But remember, they are pagans. They don’t accept that there is one true God. They don’t accept that God has a right to give them laws. That is very foreign to them.


Instead, Paul uses something they would understand. Idolatry. There’s something more fundamental than breaking God’s laws as sinners. It is failing to worship God Himself as Paul tells us in Romans 3:23 that we all fall short of God’s glory.


Paul deals with the issue of sin in relational terms, not legal terms.


Paul says that we are indeed this One True God’s offspring. But not in the pantheistic sense that we are divine or that we have a part of God in us or that we are gods. But that we are created in the image of God. And in the fall of Adam and Eve, we ruptured this fellowship and marred this image and made a huge breach in the relationship.


Before you address the idolatry of our culture, how are you addressing the idolatry in your own heart? What idols are you clinging to in order to find security and comfort?


Is there an idol in your heart from which you need to repent?

Faithful for the Future Day Eighteen

Let’s continue learning about how Paul engaged the culture in Athens.


Read Acts 17:16-34


Where does Paul go to engage lost Athens? Right to the center of activity—the marketplace—the “agora.” This was the center of life. Remember, there is no Fox News, no Internet blogs or television or movie theatres—this is where everyone came to interact. Not only did they buy and sell goods, but they also exchanged ideas. There were town criers who ran around yelling out news for everyone to hear. Teachers would set up shop and invite people to come and listen. It was a lot like CNN or the Internet—everyone had an opinion and they are all setting up shop so that they can get an audience.


And then Paul starts to engage the philosophers. Before I explain to you who the Epicurean and Stoics were, let me say that in that Greek world with a pantheon on gods, it was very unpopular to say that there is only one exclusive way. As a matter of fact, Christians were called “hate filled” even in that day because they dare believed that Jesus was the only way to God.


Does this sound familiar to you? This is the culture in which we live. We no longer live in a culture that accepts a Judeo-Christian worldview as the norm.


The Epicureans had a philosophy where their chief goal in life was to attain the maximum amount of pleasure and the minimum amount of pain. Their opinion was that this life is all there is and you only go around once, so you might as well go out with a bang. If it feels good, do it. If it doesn’t feel good, stay away from it. Avoid hurt, pain, and suffering at all costs.


Does this sound familiar? We live in an Epicurean culture that seeks pleasure at all costs and hates the idea of anything painful or uncomfortable.


The Stoics on the other hand had the “grin and bear it” attitude. Life comes at you hard, but I can rely on myself to face whatever happens. I will stick it out. I’m tough. I am self-reliant. I don’t need any help. Whatever comes, comes.


In Northeast Colorado, I find this attitude very prevalent. We live in a culture here that is very self-reliant, proud, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, farming, ranching, oil rig, railroad working independent I can face life on my own mentality.

But notice that they call Paul a “babbler”. The literal translation is “seed picker or gutter sparrow.” It was slang for a person who was a junk collector in the marketplace. He would go about picking up scraps from all over the place. In other words, they thought Paul was this jack-of-all-trades, but master of none in ideas who went around collecting things from all different worldviews and tried to pull it off as if he’s an expert or knows what he’s talking about. They thought he was strange and didn’t make sense.
Especially when he talked about the gospel. Remember from last week that the gospel is the good news message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. He was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. He was preaching the gospel and they thought he was crazy.


Does this sound familiar.


And then they bring him to the Areopagus or Mars Hill to further question him because he has perked their interest. This was a culture that loved to spend all their time telling or hearing something new. They didn’t have CNN or Fox News or TV or Internet or YouTube or Facebook like we do, so they did the equivalent. They just met out in the open marketplaces.
Our culture is a culture that is seeking something new. Whether it’s a new book promoted by Oprah, or a new YouTube clip, or a new friend on Facebook or a talking head on CNN or the latest movie or video game, we are obsessed with things “NEW”


So Paul then begins to preach a message. And I want us to pay close attention to how he engages them. Remember, he’s extremely bothered by the rank idolatry so he could have gotten in their face and rebuked them as pagans and told them to turn or burn, fly or fry and totally rip them to shreds. But these are pagans. They are ignorant as we shall see. They don’t know any better.


We live in a culture of Biblical ignorance. Lost people are enslaved and blinded and they don’t even know it. They are trapped in all kinds of idolatry and we need to engage people with compassion and try to build bridges of understanding and engage them with gentleness and respect


1 Peter 3:15-16 But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.


Are you prepared to make a defense? Are you ready to share your hope in Christ? Do you see the value of engaging lost culture with the gospel? Do you see the importance of being a church that Disciples for God’s Great Commission?


Spend some time praying for those in your life who are not Christians. Pray for boldness and opportunities to share and give a defense for your faith.


Faithful for the Future Day Seventeen

As we continue exploring what it means to disciple for God’s Great Commission we must see this as an ongoing task that is somewhat difficult. We are called to be going, baptizing, and teaching everyone to obey all that Jesus commanded so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.


Yet, there is another crucial component to making disciples. As a church we must not become satisfied with the present state of lostness in our community, but we need to seek to engage the culture with the gospel. We must see ourselves as missionaries to this community. We must see the church as a missionary to this culture.
The best way to illustrate this is by looking at Paul’s encounter with the people of Athens on Mars Hill in Acts 17.
Read Acts 17:16-34


There are many similarities between the Athenians of Paul’s day and our current postmodern, believe in anything culture. Paul’s missionary method or approach to sharing the gospel is markedly different here than when he was dealing with Jews in the synagogues. The Jews were believed in one God and embraced the Old Testament Scriptures. Paul could reason from the Old Testament with convincing proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah prophesied to come and save Israel. But with a pagan culture that believed in a pantheon of gods, Paul’s approach was different.


What do observe in this account and how what does it teach us about Emmanuel being a Great Commission church?


As Paul walks around this city with all of its architecture, beauty, philosophy, and grandeur, his spirit is provoked within him at the widespread idolatry.


The word “provoked” means that he was burning with irritation and anger. The idol worship extremely bothered him deeply. He was expressing inner indignation.


He was viewing the city through the eyes of God Himself. Idolatry is the number one sin that angers God.


How do we respond in our culture at the idolatry that is so prevalent? Are we bothered by it?


Paul could have come to this great city of Athens as a tourist to take in the scenery while he was waiting for Timothy and Silas to join him. Instead, he begins to engage the culture and truly see it as God sees it.


I’m afraid that for most of us, we act like tourists admiring the culture. Being lulled into its clutches and being mesmerized by all it has to offer. Instead of being a tourist, we are called to be missionaries who engage the culture.


Are we truly bothered by rampant idolatry and sin in our culture and how it is affecting people all around us?


I also believe that we need to have this inner anger over idolatry, but mixed with genuine compassion for the plight of people. In reality, lost people are “Prisoners of War”. They are POW’s captured by sin, the world, and the devil. We need to be broken over their plight.
Jesus expressed this same compassion for lost humanity.


Matthew 9:36 6 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.


As a Great Commission church, we need to be bothered by the idolatry in our culture as well as brokenhearted over the lostness of people.


Spend time in prayer asking God to reveal the idols in your own heart. What idols are prevalent in Northeastern Colorado? How can we as a church begin to address these? Ask God for wisdom as you pray for our community.







Faithful for the Future Day Sixteen

We as a church exist to Disciple for God’s Great Commission. What does it mean to “disciple” or “make disciples?”


One verse that really has shaped the way I view my role as pastor and of our mission of our church in making disciples is in Colossians.


Read Colossians 1:28-29


This goes back to last week’s teaching about the centrality of the gospel. We preach Christ. We proclaim Him. Again, that is the central message. But we also teach. We instruct. We encourage. We help people grow in their relationship with Christ.
We also admonish or warn everyone. This involves confronting sin. This involves challenging people in areas of weakness.


But what’s the entire goal of a Great Commission church?

The answer: That we may present every single person in this fellowship mature in Christ. Complete in Christ. God has entrusted to us souls and we are commissioned to present them back to Him as an offering in that they are complete and mature.


And Paul reminds us that this is a labor. This is a struggle. Making disciples is hard work.


Getting people to make a quick decision about Jesus does not take much effort. But the slow, arduous process of making disciples who are growing and maturing in Christ can be exhausting for a church. But it is our chief task. Our Great Commission.
And the promise is that God’s energy works powerfully in us to do this. Again, we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives.


So a Great Commission church sees our chief mission, our primary task, to preach Christ and to encourage and teach everyone in their spiritual growth so that they are complete in Christ. They are mature. They are growing. They are dynamically living in obedience to Jesus.


Faithful for the Future Day Fifteen

Welcome to week three of our “Faithful for the Future” 21-day devotion. We are into the home stretch. I pray you’ve grown spiritually through your time in the Word and prayer.


Let us review Emmanuel’s mission statement. We exist to (1) display God’s glory, (2) declare God’s gospel, and (3) disciple for God’s Great Commission.


In this final week, we will focus in on what it means to Disciple for God’s Great Commission.


Read Matthew 28:18-20


As a church, there must be a holy dissatisfaction with the status quo. We can never settle for things as they are, but we must ask God to give us His future for our church. And in the area of being a Great Commission church, the challenge is enormous. We must not be satisfied with the way things are right now or we will never grow spiritually and see the mighty hand of God work in our midst.


The first critical issue is this: As a church, we should not be satisfied with “decisions” for Christ, but instead see our primary task as making disciples of Christ.


This passage before us is famously called the Great Commission. But what are we actually commissioned to do? Not once in this passage will you find the wording go get people saved. Or go get people to walk an aisle. Or go get people to pray a prayer or sign a card or sign up for Jesus. We are called to make disciples.
What is the main verb in this passage? It starts with “go” and in our English translations we may think that “going” is the main thing we are to do. Go out! Get going! Go door-to-door! GO!
“Go” is NOT the main verb. It is actually what is called a participle or a modifier of the main verb. Usually participles end with “ing.”


It really should be translated “as you are going.” So Jesus assumes that we are already going. Jesus assumes that we would be making disciples in our daily lives as we go. We are commanded to make disciples in the natural ebb and flow of our lives within our current relationships.


No in fact, “make disciples” is the main verb in this sentence. It is the primary command. Jesus tells us that we have fallen short of the mandate if we don’t make a disciple.


There are two other participles that connect to the primary command. They are “baptizing and teaching.”


We then must ask the question, what is a disciple? If we are called to make one then we need to know what one is.


We see some qualifiers here that Jesus gives us. The first qualifier is that a disciple is a believer who has made his or her profession in Christ public through the waters of baptism. This is a person who has been immersed under the water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


Remember, baptism does not save you. It is a beautiful symbol of how God has saved you by grace. It symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It also illustrates the death of our old life in sin whereby God has raised us to new life in Christ.


So part of being a Great Commission church is that we value baptizing believers.


That’s the entry point into the community of faith. That is the public testimony that a person has trusted Christ for salvation.


If you have not followed Jesus in believer’s baptism by immersion I encourage you to make an appointment with me to discuss this.
But the second qualifier is that we are to be teaching believers. But it doesn’t end there. Notice how specific Jesus was. We are to teach them to observe or obey all that Jesus commanded.


So it’s not just teaching for information. But teaching for transformation. We must be preaching, teaching, and encouraging everyone to be doers of the Word, not just hearers.


James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.


One of the crucial roles we have as a church is to facilitate the spiritual growth of believers. There may be some of you who have only been a Christian a week and others 50 years. Regardless of where you are on the journey, you must continue to grow in the knowledge and grace of Christ.


Would you commit to OBEYING ALL that Jesus commanded? Would you be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer only?


Spend some time in prayer asking God to help you by His grace become obedient to everything Jesus commanded.