Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
If Second Baptist is to become for Jesus the great church we desire to be, we must make a great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. The Great Commandment requires us to love God first (MT 22:37). Holiness matters most. Our response to this demand is worship.
The Great Commandment also requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves (MT 22:39). We exist for others. Our response to this demand is serve.
The Great Commission, given five times by Jesus, requires us to extend His kingdom. Elsewhere is the key word here. Our response to this demand is go.
Worship. Serve. Go. These three indispensable ingredients for spiritual greatness must henceforth be our mission statement at Second Baptist.
Our focus on “Worship. Serve. Go.” begins with God’s call of Abram.
Genesis 12:1 “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy
country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s
house, unto a land that I will shew thee:”
The significance of God summoning a man, and giving him a land, can be grasped only as we set our text in its historical context. In the beginning, God created a perfect world, but sin intruded, spoiling paradise. The story of humanity ground on in discord, reaching its evil apex at Babel, where people presumptuously built a tower in a silly, futile attempt to take over heaven and control God.
The Lord looked down on this travesty. Since people had united solely to do evil, God decided to divide them for their own good. He confounded them by creating languages. As the peoples of the earth scattered from Babel, they continued to devolve, to degenerate. Sensing distance between themselves and Heaven, people began creating all kinds of weird religions in an effort to appease God.
Satan, who usurped the throne of this world and became Earth’s god (2 Cor. 4:4) after mankind sinned, watched with sadistic glee the chaos he had created. Hating humans, he celebrated the carnage and disharmony.
When God’s loving heart could no longer endure watching our pain, He intervened. He decided to reclaim what had been His at first, this world and its fallen inhabitants. His original intent was God’s people on God’s planet, loving Him and loving each other. When He chose Abram and the holy land, God drove a stake in the ground and made a statement. “This world and its people belong to Me, and I’m going to take them back. I started with one man, Adam, in one place, Eden, and I will begin again with one man, Abram, in one place, the holy land.”
With that opening salvo, Reclamation War began. To understand our cosmos, to know what this world’s existence is all about, one fact must be stated with absolute clarity. It’s not about us–not about you, not about me–it’s about God and His ongoing war to reclaim unto Himself our planet and our species.
God chose a person, thereby picturing the fact He would from that day forward be using called people as His agents to implement the reclaiming process. God set aside a place, the holy land, to symbolize His claim on all of Earth.
Every local church, including Second, is called to enlist in this overarching cosmic drama. Our duty is to discover what God is doing, and to join Him in the undertaking. To please God, we must enter His orb, adopt His agenda and work.
Holiness matters most. God is holy, separate, distinct. Our only appropriate worship to Him is to be growing holier, moving toward Him, drawing as close to Him as possible. McCheyne prayed, “Lord, make me as holy as a saved sinner can be.” Amen. We echo the sentiment. Make us as much like Jesus as possible, let His thoughts be ours, let His life be lived in us, let His agenda be ours. It’s not about us and our plans, it’s about Him and what He’s doing in Reclamation War.
By entering Earth’s miserable existence to find Abram and claim a land, God stated what He is and what He is about. At the heart of the universe beats a heart that cares. God loves this planet and its inhabitants. Earth was meant to be a huge worship center of praise to God. He wants to reclaim every inch of soil as a platform for His worship. People were created to be His. He wants them back.
If we truly love God, we will be jealous for Jesus, for Him to have what is rightfully His. Thus the question, are we willing to pay any price required to be part of the army helping God reclaim people and every corner of the planet?
I believe we are. For six years, since our missions and ministry revival began, God has been preparing the soil of our hearts, growing us into a hearty plant, grooming us to be a lovely flower to spread His fragrance and radiance.
John Edie says, God has been maturing us. We started out with youthful exuberance, naively thrilled to be on task. Then came the steep learning curve, disappointments, mistakes, failures, hard work. We are older and, I pray, wiser.
It’s time to reassess, to revisit our checklist. Is the world still in chaos? Check. Is Satan still the sadistic god of this world? Check. Is God still reclaiming our planet and our species? Check. Does Second care about the heart of God? Check. Are we willing to enlist as a regiment of God’s reclaiming army? Check.
Then what do we need to do to be sent where the action is, to the front line in Reclamation War? Mount to a higher level of worship, of holiness unto God.
God is opening doors for us. To go through them, we have to get out of the box, leave our comfort zone, though box and zone have been sweet for six years.
To be effective for God, where do we go from here? This same dilemma was faced in recent years by one of our Southern Baptist IMB Regional Leadership Teams. Working in a region where the Gospel was spreading at a snail’s pace, they decided to study the revival in China, to see what they could learn there.
Seeing people immersed in prayer, the leaders decided, “We’re not praying enough.” For three years, their region increased praying, yet saw no rapid growth.
Baffled and discouraged, they attended a missions training session at the IMB Learning Center, where the riddle was solved. A lecture by Curtis Sergeant addressed the question, “Why would God want to reproduce spiritual mediocrity?”
Sergeant said, for churches to grow and multiply, techniques are not as important as the quality of people trying to do the reproducing. Are they vessels fit for use, worthy to be duplicated? Little wonder God is multiplying Chinese Christians. Willing to die for the glory of God, they are like Jesus, and thus worth being reproduced. Jesus is reproducing Himself when He reproduces them.
Underground churches of China expect obedience-based Christianity. Each time they meet, every attendee is required to prove they applied last week’s lesson.
If no obedience is shown, no class is taught. New knowledge is dispensed only after former teaching has been applied. Chinese Christians are expected to obey immediately. They believe this helps them hear God more clearly next time.
Sergeant tells of a lady he met at an all-night prayer meeting in China. At midnight she said she was sensing God’s call to be a missionary to a particular people group in China. Curtis went home to sleep and returned a few hours later to the meeting. He wanted to encourage the lady who had surrendered to missions at midnight, but was told she had left on a bus at 4 a.m. to go to her people group.
Abram had similar faith. God told him to circumcise his family. He obeyed “the very same day” (GN 17:23 NAS). God told him to send Hagar and Ishmael away, and later commanded him to sacrifice his son Isaac. In both instances, he “rose up early in the morning” (GN 21:14; 22:3) and obeyed.
If we want God to multiply us, we have to become worth being reproduced. An illustration from nature might help. I love African Violets, but they are testy, temperamental, hard to grow. They require a precise amount of light daily, special soil and nutrients, limited temperature variance. They require so much attention that when I reproduce them, I take time only for hearty plants. Why would I want to waste energy reproducing sick violets? Similarly, if we at Second want God to reproduce us, we must make ourselves worthy of God’s horticultural efforts. We must learn to step out in radical, immediate obedience, to risk all if necessary.