His by conquest

“The Lord’s portion is his people.” — Deuteronomy 32:9

Spurgeon in Morning and Evening asks the question:

“How are they his?”

He then gives three answers to his question:

1. They are His by his own sovereign choice.

2. They are His by purchase. 

3. They are His by conquest. 

It is the last point that struck me as I read Spurgeon’s words this morning.  Not only has God chosen us before the foundation of the world.  Not only has Christ paid for our sins.  He has battled and defeated our rebellious hearts that hate Him.

Or as Spurgeon puts it:

“What a battle he had in us before we would be won! How long he laid siege to our hearts! How often he sent us terms of capitulation! but we barred our gates, and fenced our walls against him. Do we not remember that glorious hour when he carried our hearts by storm? When he placed his cross against the wall, and scaled our ramparts, planting on our strongholds the blood-red flag of his omnipotent mercy? Yes, we are, indeed, the conquered captives of his omnipotent love. Thus chosen, purchased, and subdued, the rights of our divine possessor are inalienable: we rejoice that we never can be our own; and we desire, day by day, to do his will, and to show forth his glory.”

We point to the gospel by WHEN we baptise

This is the seventh in a series of posts looking at the subject of baptism.  Part 1 is HERE, Part 2 is HERE, Part 3 is HERE, Part 4 is HERE, Part 5 is HERE, Part 6 is HERE. 

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In this post I want us to think about the final way we point to the gospel in the way we baptise people and that’s WHEN we baptize them.  

The examples the book of Acts gives is of people getting baptised very soon after becoming Christians.  

In Acts 2, Peter says “Repent and be baptised” and those who accepted His message were baptised that day. 

In Acts 8:36 when the man from Ethiopia heard Jesus preached to Him, his immediate response was “Look, here is water.  Why shouldn’t I be baptised?” 

The Philippian jailer in Acts 16:31: ”then immediately he and all his family were baptised.” 

But nowadays it is more common for there to be a period of time between someone becoming Christian and them being baptised.  Are we doing something wrong? 

Here are a few comments to make about this: 

Firstly, by waiting, we are not saying that the person is not a Christian.  In delaying baptism we need to be careful that we don’t cause people to doubt the genuineness of their faith. 

Secondly, if we believe that only believers should be baptised, then it is important that we make sure that to the best of our knowledge the person wanting to be baptised is a believer.  As Jesus’ parable of the sower shows this can take time. 

Thirdly, in the case of children and young people, we can’t put an age at which they can be baptised.  Things such as maturity, understanding of its significance, the parents view (especially with unbelieving parents) are all factors to be considered. 

But on this it is interesting to note that Spurgeon who was known for preaching and practicing the important of leading children to conversion waited to baptise his own sons who had been Christians for years until they were 18. 

Then fourthly, delaying baptism can be a way of focusing people on the gospel because again it makes it clear the need to repent before being baptised. 

We can point people to the gospel by when we baptise Christians.

Open Air / Street Evangelism

Notes from a talk given by Steve Gurnett from OAC-Streetwise on ‘Open Air/Street Evangelism’ at the Capital Youthworks youthworker training morningOAC-Streetwise is a giveaway ministry involves in sharing the gospel in the open air plus work in schools, prison and training others to do evangelism. 

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Why do Christians have a problem with open air evangelism? 

  • They don’t know how to do it.
  • Their ministers don’t like doing it.
  • They are afraid of looking like a loony.
  • It’s scary!
  • It’s hard work, its cold, and people walk away from you.
  • We’re in a ‘come and see’ culture. 

What’s the problem with only inviting people to church/youth group (‘come and see’)? 

  • It communicates to Christian that the gospel is not that important.
  • It communicates that the church/youth group will share the gospel for you so you don’t have to go out and do it yourself.
  • It communicates that the church/youth group is the only place where the gospel is shared.
  • It communicates to those outside the church that the gospel is not that important and it’s not for them. 

Some people will say that street preaching doesn’t work, well that’s because we don’t do it.  Why aren’t we good at street preaching?  We don’t do it enough.  Like everything it requires practice. 

Saints of old on open air preaching 

John Wesley: “What marvel the devil does not love field preaching! Neither do I; I love a commodious room, a soft cushion, a handsome pulpit But where is my zeal, if I do not trample all these underfoot in order to save one more soul?”  

Charles Spurgeon: “No sort of defence is needed for preaching out of doors; but it would need very potent arguments to prove that a man had done his duty who has never preached beyond the walls of his meeting-house. A defence is required rather for services within buildings than for worship outside of them.” 

Open Air Preaching Tips 

  • Outside the church is where people feel comfortable but is often the place we don’t.
  • When doing open-air evangelism wear red so that you stand out.
  • Don’t use PA so people are forced to come to you to hear what you’re saying.
  • Be yourself.
  • Try to pray with people before they leave.
  • Keep going back to the same place.
  • A prayer to pray: “Lord, will you give me the opportunity to talk about you today!” 

Some helpful links 

Shepherding all our people

Possibly my favourite talk that I heard last year was Stuart Olyott’s talk titled ‘Shepherding all our people’ from the Banner of Truth Leicester Minister’s Conference.  He was simply outstanding on the topic of pastoral care.  I’ve posted my notes from it below.  If you can find the audio of this talk anywhere, it’s definitely worth listening to!

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Shepherding all our people 

This is an area that none of us are doing very well in.  Our response to this message is not to say “I’ve got to do better!”  That’s a good response, but it should never be our first response.  Our first response should be to say “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.”  The good news is that when we do this, the Father will “[feel] compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”  Our first response is ‘Father I have sinned’ and He will run and accept you. 

1. Biblical Foundations 

Two keys texts: Acts 20:28 & 1 Peter 5:2f. 

a) What does it means to shepherd? 

To look after people. 

Make sure that they are fed spiritually.  Lead them on the right track.  Keep them on the right track.  Carry the weak.  Bandage the bleeding.  Heal the ill.  Comfort the distressed.  Seek the wandering.  Protect every lamb and every sheep from all those wolves, most of which they can’t recognise. 

b) Who has to be shepherded? 

Everyone.  I have to shepherd every elder, and every elder has to shepherd me, the elders together are to shepherd those in the local church they oversee. 

c) Why do they have to be shepherded? 

Jesus Christ purchased a vast number of men and women, boys and girls, and He doesn’t intend to lose any one of them.  The Bible teaches the perseverance of the saints.  We are kept by the power of God through faith.  The principle means by which we are kept persevering is the life and ministry of the local church led by its pastors and elders.  This means the integrity of our pastoral work is key. 

d) How do they have to be shepherded? 

When did you last sit down and give serious thought to shepherding the flock? 

It’s hard work.  It’s sacrificial work.  It’s emotionally draining work.  It’s unselfish work.  It’s demanding work.  It’s work done with one eye on the future, when all this work will have been worth it. 

It’s not about laying down the rules for people, telling them what to do.  This has already been done by Jesus.  We lead the people of God by setting an example. 

For Christ’s sake we work hard, we work long, we work tenderly to look after every Christian in the church. 

2. What will all this mean in practice? 

a) You must know who is a sheep and who isn’t. 

Do they have a credible profession of faith?  Profession of faith is credible is the person has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Find out by asking them a question: Do you pray?  Why should God listen to you?  Those with a credible profession of faith will answer because of Jesus Christ and what He did for sinners.  But you won’t be able to ask that question if you don’t get close to people.  What is their attitude towards sin?  Does it distress them?  Do they have love for the brethren?  You can’t find out who is a sheep if you don’t get close to everybody. 

b) You must know each individual sheep. 

Do you know their names?  Next to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the name we love in the world the most is our own name.  Do you know where they live?  Do you know their family circumstances?  Could you go through a typical day in their lives?  Do you know what their temptations and joys are?  Do you know where they work and who they work with?  Do you know their cultural upbringing?  What language they speak at home?  Do you know what their temperament is like at home?  What their strengths and weaknesses are?  What their stage in grace is?  Their level of biblical literacy?  Doctrinal grasp?  Level of obedience?  Spiritual gifts? 

You have to get close to people and spend time with them to find these things out. 

c) You must take definite steps to make sure each sheep is looked after. 

  • Preaching 

Is your preaching accessible to all the sheep Christ has given you?  Can all your people understand it?  Is it what Al Martin called ‘Discriminatory Applicatory Preaching’?  Is your application as such that people then think that this word is for me?  A major part of pastoral work is done in the pulpit. 

  • Church 

Does your preaching teach the church what fellowship is?  Fellowship is my life wrapped up with theirs, and their life wrapped up in mine.  We need to encourage our people to understand this concept of a shared life.  Encourage people to spend time with each other.  Not all pastoral work can be done by the pastors.  Preach fellowship, live fellowship, example it. 

  • Eldership Meetings 

Do your eldership meeting start with the minutes?  A better way to start would be after a time of devotion around the Word and then prayer, to begin with the question: Is anyone causing us concern?  After this talk about the congregation in a systematic way, going down the list.  Talk about individuals, not broad categories of people.  Organise regular visiting to members.  Try and get an elder around to everyone every year.  Pray for the congregation together as elders. 

  • Yourself 

Do you pray for the sheep?  [One way to do this would be to buy a notebook, divide it into 5 sections labelled Monday to Friday.  Each section has 4 pages.  Page 1 is 1/5 of the members.  Page 2 is 1/5 of the adherers.  Page 3 is 1/5 of the church organisation.  Page 4 is own personal prayer needs.] 

Be the person of the place.  Be at the start of the different meetings that take place on the church premises.  

Necessary visits.  There are people who are ill who don’t feel comforted until you turn up.  When you hear of bereavement, stop what you’re doing and go straight to the family.  

Systematic visiting.  First time you visit, find out if they have a credible profession of faith.  Second time you visit, find out about their devotional life.  Third time you visit, find out about the serving them do or would like to do.  And so on. 

Hospitality.  Giving someone a temporary place in the family.  Have people round.  Keep an open home.  Be happy that people want to come and sit in your home. 

Be available.  Send out the right vibes all the time.  Why do pastors hide out in the vestry before the service?  Don’t you think that needs thinking about?  Welcome people in their seats.  Be around afterwards.  Sometimes don’t go to the front door, sit on the front row to chat with people. 

  • Other suggestions 

If there are a group of promising men give them training.  Create forums where people can ask questions about your teaching as you do it.  Sometimes let your pastoral visits determine what you preach. 

  • Don’t forget the thoughtful touches that show you care 

Give your complete attention to that person in front of you.  

A phone call, text, email, handwritten note.  Something that is sincere, spontaneous and short.  Spurgeon once wrote 500 of these a week. 

The pastor’s job is to love and teach, in that order!