All posts by John

Christian saved by grace through faith.

The Largest Unreached People Group – The “Reached”

An unreached people group is a term most frequently used to define any ethnic or linguistically distinct culture that does not have a history of Christianity.  Hudson Taylor, one of the greatest missionaries all of time, was devoted to the unreached people group of China.  Mr. Taylor arrived at China in 1854 and it’s estimated that he led more people to Christ than any other single person since the Apostle Paul.  Estimates state that the number of Christians in China in the 1960s was about 5000, while current estimates place the number at or near 100 million, so to say Christianity is growing overseas would be an understatement; however, much work is left to be done to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus.(Matthew 28:19-20)   The Joshua Project, a website designed to identify the unreached people groups of the world, lists the Shaikh people of Bangladesh, with a population of 131,167,000 as the largest unreached group.  There are many wonderful organizations and churches that equip and train brave missionaries all around the world to go into various countries like Bangladesh to reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It’s a daunting task and there are more than 6,600 unreached people groups throughout the world.

 

With this in mind, consider the following results from the year end research released by The Barna Group, granted I’m not sure of the benefit the Christian church has with such demographics, nor do I completely agree with their surveying methods, but it does provide something of a baseline for religious beliefs in America.  Their polling data produced the following results:

Most self-identified Christians are comfortable with the idea that the Bible and the sacred books from non-Christian religions all teach the same truths and principles

71% say they will develop their own slate of religious beliefs rather than accept a package of beliefs promoted by a church or denomination

Barely one-third of self-identified Christians (36%) strongly agree that it is important for followers of Christ to maintain positive relationships with people who are not Christians

Only one-third (34%) believe in absolute moral truth

Two-thirds of adults (64%) are willing to experience and express their faith in new or different environments or structures than they have in the past

68% of self-identified Christians have heard of spiritual gifts, a decline in the past decade; a minority (roughly one-third) can actually identify a biblical spiritual gift they claim to possess

Just half of all self-identified Christians firmly believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles (not the facts, just the principles) that it teaches

And finally the following summary analysis from Barna:

“Bible reading has become the religious equivalent of sound-bite journalism. When people read from the Bible they typically open it, read a brief passage without much regard for the context, and consider the primary thought or feeling that the passage provided. If they are comfortable with it, they accept it; otherwise, they deem it interesting but irrelevant to their life, and move on. There is shockingly little growth evident in people’s understanding of the fundamental themes of the scriptures and amazingly little interest in deepening their knowledge and application of biblical principles.”

Source: http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/325-barna-studies-the-research-offers-a-year-in-review-perspective

 

Current estimates place the number of people identifying themselves as “Christian” within America at 76%.  With a population of about 305 million the estimated number of “Christians” in the U.S. is roughly 232 million.  Now let’s attempt to extrapolate the data from Barna, granted it is all over the place, but still seems to indicate among those polled, not only a strong lack of Biblical knowledge, but a complete misconception of a Biblical worldview and Christian ideals.  Some of you might disagree in one direction or another, but let’s conservatively estimate that based on responses to Barna’s polling 35% of people identifying themselves as Christians, may in fact not be.  You may or may not agree with that percentage, but keep this in mind, the number (66%) of those who don’t believe in absolute moral truth would’ve been a more than fair percentage to use.  Regardless, using our 35% figure and working through the math again, we get an arguably conservative number of 81 million Americans who identify themselves as Christian, but more than likely are not, or at least have no idea what the Christian life entails.  It may be fair to use this same 35% on a world-wide scale for the estimated 2.1 billion Christians.  This would put our figure at 735 million.  Even if this estimate is grossly overstated and we lowered our estimated number of people who identify themselves as Christians but may not be, to 10%, that still gives us 210 million people world-wide who think they are Christians, but most likely are not.

 

Frankly, this is an alarming and frightening figure, but let’s be reminded of the words of Jesus, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” Matthew 7:20-22 ESV  If we related this to our modern time a similar argument might be “Didn’t we walk the aisle, teach Sunday School, read the Bible sometimes, and even pray to You?”

 

Drawing back to the unreached people groups, it’s extremely important to maintain vigilance in sending and supporting missionaries who risk their lives to bring the Gospel to the lost groups of the world.  However, at the same time, it’s equally imperative that those of us who remain at “home” do not assume that our family, friends, or fellow church goers know Christ as their personal Savior, simply because they were raised religious, believe they are good, or have perhaps answered an altar call, but instead lack any semblance of saving faith.  We must share the Gospel with everyone we can in order to build up the Body of Christ “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12-13 ESV The unreached people groups are lost, those who believe they are saved but actually aren’t have a false security, is one group any more prepared for judgement than the other?

 

“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed you are disqualified.” II Corinthians 13: 5

 

“the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Romans 8:16 ESV

 

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

 9You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:1-11 ESV

Repentance

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” II Corinthians 7:10 ESV

 

In just a few short days we’ll be leaving 2009 forever and begin our venture into a brand new 2010.  Often many of us use this transition period to mark a time of change or New Year’s resolutions.  If you’re one of these who are usually determined to make a resolution, but then after just a few short weeks have forgotten, lost interest, or fallen away from your resolution let me challenge you to make a decision that will last, one that our fickle, fallen nature cannot control nor lose interest in.  Start this New Year on solid ground with a clean slate by way of repentance.  Surely each of us wants a clean slate, our past transgressions forgiven and forgotten, unless of course you enjoy sinking in guilt and depression becoming more distant from the only One capable of saving you.  How then do we proceed with repentance and what do we have to do, more specifically what is repentance?  

 

Dr. John MacArthur defines repentance as not just a change of mind, but a change of heart.  In accordance with this he adds repentance is “an inward response, not external activity.”  But we must ask an inward response to what?  The answer to this question applies to believers and non-believers alike.  II Timothy 2:25 ESV Paul states, “…God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of truth.”  In Romans 2:4 the Apostle states, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”  These two passages indicate that repentance is a response to God’s leading us towards it, specifically through the internal working of the Holy Spirit.  The idea here is that left alone to our own sinfulness we will be perfectly content to wallow in filth, if not for the grace of God leading us to repentance.  How then should we respond to this holy influence?  The psalmist David sings to the Lord, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 NKJV  We established with the definition of repentance that it is a change of heart, our prayer then should be like David’s that God would search our hearts for any wicked way and when He does, that we may be lead to repentance.   

 

Repentance then is an inward change of heart toward sin in response to God’s graciousness that softens the hardness of our hearts and leads us towards repentance.  What should our response be once we are searched and found at fault?  In the passage above from II Corinthians, the Apostle Paul states that godly grief or sorrow produces repentance.  When God searches our hearts and reveals to us just how unworthy our sins have made us, the response is godly sorrow.  This response is affected by the recognition of sin through guilt, sorrow for sin committed against a Holy God, and a change or turning away from sin in seeking to be cleansed or pardoned from sin. (Berkhof via MacArthur, Systematic Theology)  True repentance is a heartfelt change in attitude toward sin and God’s working in our lives to make that change complete.  As we’ve pointed out before, King Saul’s attitude toward sin was one of indifference, in that he sinned because he felt like it and his remorse was an external response to being found guilty. I Samuel 13:12 On the converse King David’s sins were numerous and egregious, yet his sorrow was an inward response of heartfelt remorse. II Samuel 12:13 Which heart do you have?

 

Are you unrepentant today, not knowing of the kindness of God that leads to repentance?  Maybe you have already felt the guilt of sin in your life, but have not yet repented.  Offer up a prayer to God and ask the Lord to search your heart to see if there is any wicked way.  Repent of those sins dear friend, with godly sorrow and come broken before the cross of God’s Son Jesus.  Believe on Him for His power to forgive you from those sins and know that your sins died with Him on the cross.  Just as Jesus rose again, you can now have a new life in Him cleansed from all your sins, trusting in the Savior Jesus Christ for salvation from God’s wrath.

 

Christians, how will you start your 2010?  Will you carry over your unconfessed sins into the New Year?  Or will you repent knowing that when we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  I John 1:9  Have you felt distant from God this past year?  Do you feel like you’ve stalled in your faith, with no desire for His Word or a lack of prayer and fellowships with other believers?    It’s likely sin has become an obstacle in your life.  Maybe you’ve found yourself sliding back into the life you once left.  Have you forgotten what you were cleansed from?  II Peter 1:9 Pray that the Lord too might search your heart and find any unconfessed sin and repent.

“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:7 ESV

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” II Peter 3:9 ESV

“Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” Matthew 3:8 ESV

“But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” Romans 2:5 ESV

“I am the Door”

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. John 10:9 ESV

Jesus, the great I AM, is the entrance into the true church, and the way of access to God himself.  He gives to the man who comes to God by him four choice privileges.

1.  He shall be saved.  The fugitive manslayer passed the gate of the city of refuge, and was safe.  Noah entered the door of the ark, and was secure.  None can be lost who take Jesus as the door of faith to their souls.  Entrance through Jesus into peace is the guarantee of entrance by the same door into heaven.  Jesus is the only door, an open door, a wide door, a safe door; and blessed is he who rests all his hope of admission to glory upon the crucified Redeemer.

2.  He shall go in.  He shall be privileged to go in among the divine family, sharing the children’s bread, and participating in all their honors and enjoyments.  He shall go in to the chambers of communion, to the banquets of love, to the treasures of the covenant, to the storehouses of the promises.  He shall go in unto the King of kings in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the secret of the Lord shall be with him.

3.  He shall go out.  This blessing is much forgotten.  We go out into the world to labor and suffer, but what a mercy to go in the name and power of Jesus!  We are called to bear witness to the truth, to cheer the disconsolate, to warn the careless, to win souls, and to glorify God; and as the angel said to Gideon, Go in this thy might, even thus the Lord would have us proceed as his messengers in his name and strength.

4.  He shall find pasture.  He who knows Jesus shall never want.  Going in and out shall be alike helpful to him: in fellowship with God he shall grow, and in watering others he shall be watered.  Having made Jesus his all, he shall find all in Jesus.  His soul shall be as a watered garden, and as a well of water whose waters fail not.