Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hear the Call of the Kingdom

The Reformation was born in Sola Fide (salvation by faith alone), it spread in Sola Scriptura (God speaks in this age only through his Word), but it was sustained in Sola Sacerdos (every believer in the New Covenant is a priest/sacerdote). This is an exceptionally amazing privilege for the Christian, we are allowed to do things that most people cannot ever dream of doing, we can pray and have God hear us, we can approach his throne of grace, we can preach of his atonement in Jesus Christ, and our whole life becomes a sacrifice to the Lord of heaven and earth.

But recently many have forgotten or ignored Sola Sacerdos, they have begun to build a hierarchy of believers, a sacerdotal religion, one that dotes on the super-spirituals. In Seattle a witch claims that God spoke audibly and authoritatively to tell him to "marry [a certain girl], preach the Bible, to plant churches and train men." In Charlotte a minor antichrist has set himself up in this way, "[Our church] is built on the vision God gave Pastor Steven. We will aggressively defend our unity and that vision." If these were based in the Bible they would not be as destructive as they have been. Other more subtle sacerdotal religions say to listen for God, he might want you to sell all your stuff and give it to the poor. Others listen for "a still small voice" or a "leading" into ministry. All of these have utterly wrecked the church, because they are everything but biblical. Witches and hirelings run throughout spreading heresy and speaking for God where God has not spoken.

As professed Christians, professed priests of the Living God, their condemnation is tremendous, as it is written,

Yet let no one contend,
--and let none accuse,
--for with you is my contention, O priest.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
--because you have rejected knowledge,
--I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
--I also will forget your children. - Hosea 4:4,6
Dear Christian, if you are not terrified by this prospect, then I beg you to test yourself to see if you are even in the faith. Let us be sure that before our mouths open that we are not misrepresenting God, let us pray that before we could dishonor God with our words that our tongues would fall out or cleave to the tops of our mouths (Psalm 137:6). I am writing this to motivate you to obey the call that you received when you first heard of Christ and believed on his name. There is no special sacerdotal call to the ministry, you are called to present your body as a living sacrifice, to take up your cross and follow Christ, to live a life worthy of his calling, yours is the priestly duty of preaching the gospel of forgiveness of sins; as a Christian, favored by God, you are a minister in his kingdom.

He gave you a command two millennia ago to preach the gospel, and he has never rescinded nor altered that commission. Therefore, dear Christian, do as it says in Jesus' parables, go to the highways and hedges and compel as many as you find to come into the wedding feast so that the wedding hall is filled with guests, whether good and bad; yours is the invitation, not the discernment. Your call is to be the herald of good news, the messenger of the kingdom. This is not a silent job; while it does not require a trumpetous voice, it does require you to open your mouth and proclaim to humanity the excellencies of him who called you out of the darkness into his glorious light.

Under our modern sacerdotal religious system, many sit back and say, "I haven't been called to share my faith." This excuse is wicked and lazy, for any Christian who has ever read the New Testament knows they are called to share their faith. Over a century ago William Booth put it this way,
'Not called!' did you say?

'Not heard the call,' I think you should say.

Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin.

Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help.

Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father's house and bid their brothers and sisters, and servants and masters not to come there.

And then look Christ in the face, whose mercy you have professed to obey, and tell him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish his mercy to the world.
Beloved, if you are in the kingdom, then you are called. Do not fall for some ridiculous hierarchal call to share your faith. You are a priest of the Living God, you have the same authority as if you were God's Son himself to publish peace and call mankind to repent, because you are in his righteousness and seen as though you had lived his life. He came to seek and save the lost, and he has commissioned and prayed for you to do the same, calling all to repent and trust in his saving work on the cross and in the empty tomb.

You may live in an exceptionally godless place, or like me, in a place that is so hardened to the gospel through the wicked free-will message that most won't know they are God's enemies until he casts them into Hell, but who knows, perhaps you have come into the kingdom for just such a time as this. If you remain silent, then relief and deliverance for God's saints will rise from another place, but you put yourself in tremendous danger that you may be found false, and in such a terrible judgment you will perish.

Jesus says that if his followers do not declare who he is, that the rocks will cry out. Beloved, I refuse to be outpreached by a rock, and I pray that you will open your mouth and proclaim the excellencies of Christ. Hear the call of the kingdom and proclaim Christ and him crucified for the forgiveness of sins! Don't wait for something mystical; it is revealed: he calls you to be a priest and a herald of the kingdom, to open your mouth, and call lost sheep home.

Beloved, don't be outpreached by a rock.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Being a Good Person

Facebook has informed me that on this day last year I preached one of my favorite messages ever. I feel this is worthy of reposting, because I think it is missed in much of Christendom today:

Text – Acts 11:24, Romans 15:14-17

One of my favorite things to do is brag on the church and especially youth who are living their faith. The Apostle Paul did likewise with the church at Thessalonica saying that they were his crown of boasting and his joy because they had so thoroughly evangelized Macedonia and stayed firm in the faith and loved one another.

In the past six months or so I’ve bragged about student's school performance, preaching to their peers, being on fire for sharing the gospel, discipling younger people, and their theological depth; namely one of the most profound things I’ve ever heard from anybody, even adults, with, “Christ died on a tree of death to give us access to the tree of life.” There are many others, time would fail me to recount them all.

I wrote our whole lesson plan on a Tuesday morning, on Wednesday I was telling someone about an awesome song I’d heard sung by a teenager on Sunday. I’ll brag on the person I was telling this too as well, his name is Patrick and he is always excited to hear what’s going on at church and tell me what is going on at his church, I really look forward to talking to him, because he stirs me up for good works. He asked about the song and it led to me being able to brag about the quality of the teenager. Afterwards it got me thinking about a passage in scripture that I’ve read several times but never spent too much time on, the reason I started thinking about it was because I didn’t have the faintest urge to tell Patrick, “She’s an absolutely horrible person, but she sure can sing and play the piano.” No, when I brag on students it’s always on their love and faith and amazing things they do in the name of Christ. So I changed the lesson plan to look at an amazing verse in the Bible, maybe my favorite.

Let’s read that verse:

Acts 11:24 [Barnabas] was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.

Does this seem backwards from what we talked about last week? Let’s read some other verses that say what we learned last week,

Genesis 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Romans 3:12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.

Luke 18:17 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

So if that’s true that no-one is good, how then can Barnabas be good? Is he God? No, because in Galatians 2 we see that he at one point was a great sinner. Does he have God in him? Aha, there is our answer, he was full of the Holy Spirit.

What are the fruit of the Spirit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Aha! If we are being sanctified, then we should be able to be labeled a good person. What is the definition of sanctification? Being conformed (changed) closer and closer to an image of Jesus Christ, loving what he loves and hating what he hates and reacting and interacting with the world the same way he would.

Let’s look at another scripture that supports the idea that the Christian has been redeemed from being a bad person to being a good person:

Romans 15:14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

Now, we have to make sure we’re making a distinction between being good and being filled with goodness, with having an innate goodness and having, as Dr. John MacArthur calls it, an alien goodness. Left to ourselves, we are not good, our goodness comes from above. There is no verse that says verbatim we’re good because Christ was good, but there are many scriptures which say basically that,

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1 Peter 1:15 As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."

We are good not because of anything in ourselves, but because Christ has given us his Spirit who is goodness and righteousness.

Romans 8:7-10 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, 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. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

How do we receive the goodness of Christ? Through faith. What else was Barnabas filled with? Faith. Check out this verse,

Hebrews 11:5 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Now, let’s look at how this goodness plays out. What is the definition of goodness? Is it always being nice and not offending someone or always being upbeat and happy? No, we’ll look at Paul’s example in just a minute, but before we do I want to show you sometimes being nice or happy or positive isn’t the right response,

Proverbs 25:20 Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.

Goodness is reacting rightly to all situations; virtue. Sometimes being nice is not the right response to a situation, check out what Paul kept saying,

Romans 15:14-15 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder,

Sometimes being good requires a direct rebuke, a correction, abrasiveness to smooth out a problem by bringing a person to the truth. In Proverbs it says that an enemy will tell you you’re wonderful when you’re not, but a friend will tell you the truth, James says we may save a person’s soul by confronting them in their sin, namely pride. There was a massive movement in the 20th century, which I’m sure isn’t dead yet, to convince people that they should have massive amounts of self-esteem and consider themselves to be the best person on the planet just waiting to find a place to express themselves. It led to several completely wrecked generations; in fact many teachers have found that the students with the highest self esteem have no interest in learning anything or improving in any way, because they think they’re already perfect.

So let me give you some advice. Students, you may do great in school, but you’re not as smart as you someday will be; keep pressing forward. Evangelists, you may be awesome at sharing your faith but if you’re at the same level you are now in ten years, I’d be embarrassed. Theologians, you may have made totally awesome statements about the Bible, but our effort isn’t finding little jewels of theology, but in having a firm foundation and a complete knowledge able to instruct others. Musicians, for your age you are amazing, but you’re not there yet and you still need to practice hard to master the gift God has given you.

Christ and his Spirit should be doing the same thing in our lives, because Christ who is full of goodness is always working our sanctification:

Revelation 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

If God is not exposing and killing sin in your life and driving you towards good, then you ought to wonder if you’re in his grace, and if not then you must make sure you’re trusting in his goodness and not your own, because we bring no goodness to this equation.

Paul then says he is a priest of God preaching the gospel, bringing people (Gentiles) to Christ, the way he concludes the thought is AMAZING.

Romans 15:17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.

What an amazing privilege we have entered into in this covenant. Not only has Jesus saved us from Hell and sin and death and ultimately from himself, but he has also saved us from unfruitful and wasted lives, giving us reason to boast. How did he do that? By dying in our place and defeating death, Paul gives one of the most awesome doxologies in the Bible concerning this in

1 Corinthians 15:54-58 "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

So then, who are we proud of? Ourselves or the work that God is doing through us? John the Baptist, who Jesus called the greatest man ever to live, knew that he wasn’t actually the one who would get the glory, here is his response,

John 3:27-30 John answered, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.' The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease."

So we see that we were once great sinners, but Christ has redeemed us and has given us his Spirit and through that Spirit we can be called good, not us in ourselves, but the Holy Spirit living in us. Now, are you good all the time? Do you sin as a Christian?

The Apostle Paul ran into this same problem, and he writes one of the most amazingly awesome passages in scripture, these are my favorite verses,

Romans 7:13-8:2 Did [the law] which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

So in conclusion, are there any good people apart from Christ? No. But will people think they are good apart from Christ? Proverbs 20:6 says that almost all people will proclaim their own goodness, their own awesomeness, but then it asks, “Where can we find such a person?” Apart from Christ this person doesn’t exist, they are either so self-centered as to make their deceitfulness transparent, or they are doing nice things for people apart from God and pointing them away from Heaven. For example, there are plenty of non-Christian organizations feeding starving people in Africa and India, and they've found that just by feeding people they see a resurgence in births which leads to more mouths to feed and greater infant mortality rates and so many of these organizations stop feeding people all together. Other organizations provide free medical and dental care, which is awesome but it's only a temporal fix, and what they are doing by helping people apart from Christ is telling them to put their trust in men and not in God, which is utterly the most wicked thing they could be doing. I just finished a hugely vitriolic book on Mother Teresa and that woman believed everyone goes to Heaven provided they believe in a god or gods and so she made no effort to introduce people to Jesus.


There are no lack of organizations making this world a nice place to go to Hell from.

Apart from the Holy Spirit we are unable to do good for someone’s eternity, but in Christ we are washed, sanctified, and justified, given a holy calling accomplished by Christ working in us. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us; so we see a war working in ourselves, desiring to serve Christ with our minds, but locked into sin in our bodies, knowing that ultimately we will have full victory in Heaven, we live a life worthy to be called good by all outsiders so that they will see our deeds in the name of Christ and glorify him on the final day. Let’s conclude with two of my favorite verses,

Galatians 2:19-20 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Book Review - The World-Tilting Gospel

Introduction


Only a few months ago I suggested to a student to step away from brand new books and read some books from men of antiquity who have proved to be useful, orthodox, non-heretical, and able to stand the test of time; instead of a flash in the pan. This was in response to infatuation with the "radical", "mystical", "save the world", "the Holy Spirit looks just like me", "be the most innovative and relevant pastor ever" books that are flooding out of christianity like a broken sewer line. I have read my fair share of those books, fortunately from a need to know basis on what heresy is being peddled in print so as to be able to head it off to students; but I decided to then take my advice to this student personally, and planned to not read any new authors for a while. Beloved, I can tell you that my recent dive in the works of John Owen have been hugely edifying and quite a jump from writers who "almost" get-it, to a man who has been motivating Christians towards holiness and good works for centuries.

But then I saw that Dan Phillips was releasing a new book (books actually, but I've only read his first one), on one of my favorite verses, turning the world upside down. The book is called The World-Tilting Gospel. I was hesitant to buy it, based on my previous advice, but then the news came out that it was released on Kindle quite a bit earlier than the planned release date, and I read some excerpts and then I was compelled to buy it and read it. I'm very glad I did, and I recommend everyone who is reading this review to do likewise, it is a fantastic book, and one that I pray finds its way into the libraries of many pastors, teachers, evangelists, and those who should be.

The Good

I honestly expected this book to have a flavor somewhat like David Platt's Radical, only much better. I had that expectation solely on the title, I thought it would include things like, "How are you going to turn the world upside down if you've built your future on it?" or things like that, I don't know why I had those expectations, since I'm a long time reader of Phillips' blog, but I definitely expected things like that based on a solitary verse in Acts 17:6 and a similar one in Acts 4:31. I expected great things from Phillips, and honestly, he far surpassed my expectations in ways I could never have expected.

First of all, this book is a rock-solid polemic for Calvinism. Phillips spends just the right amount of time showing how hopeless Adam is, how hopeless mankind is in Adam, and how hopeless we are in ourselves, then he exalts Christ as the Saviour who entered hostile territory to seek and save that which was lost. Dan's look at the gospel, utterly scriptural, is Calvinism, and if you don't understand either the gospel or Calvinism, this book will give you a firm foundation in both, because as Spurgeon said, "Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else."

Second, Phillips masterfully defines the differences between justification (being declared righteous), forgiveness, and regeneration. I knew the difference going in, but the way which Phillips describes each edified me and I gained both sermon-illustrations and a clearer understanding of the amazing things Christ did for believers on the cross. Everyone from a new believer to a seasoned pastor will benefit from this section.

Third, this book contains great expositions of texts, mainly Genesis 3 and John 3, both of which I've already used in my own ministry. Beloved, if the only thing this book contained was these amazing expositions, I would recommend it, and it contains so much more.

Fourth, Phillips doesn't make an error it seems almost every Christian writer is making recently, to tell his readers what they should be doing with the information in their books with selfish detail. Phillips keeps it nice and broad, recognizing that the gospel pours forth good works, but that different Christians are equipped and gifted to work in different ways. Refreshingly Phillips doesn't tell his readers to sell their house, fight the sex-trade, dig wells in third world countries; he tells his readers to preach the gospel, specifically one of my favorite quotes from the book, "It is that Gospel, and not our methods or programs, that is the saving power of God for everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16). It is the best you have to give anyone. Grasp it firmly. Live it robustly. Give it profligately, in Christ's name. And just watch things start to shake and shift." (Kindle Location 5776) Readers will certainly be motivated to do more good with the gospel by Phillips' book than similar books that tell people where they should be working, regardless of their gifting.

Fifth, this book goes after the "Let go and let God" error with zeal for the truth and shreds errors that probably every reader will have heard without recognizing their danger. I always knew I didn't like the "Let go/let God" language but I had never really thought about why. Phillips shows that the gospel is a call for action and that you as a believer ought to, "bless those who curse you, serve one another, go out from the unclean, love your wives, love one another strenuously, flee immorality, work out your salvation, train yourself for godliness, keep yourselves in God’s love, hold fast what you have . . . Does any of that sound like 'Let go and let God'?" (Loc. 4112) The message of this book, which is really the message of the Bible, will strengthen believers and send them out to minister the true gospel to the world. I pray that through this book the following will be true for all who read it,
Show me a person focused on the person and work of Jesus Christ—never tiring of learning about Him, thinking about Him, boasting of Him, speaking about and for and to Him, thrilled and entranced with His perfections and beauty, finding ways to serve and exalt Him, tirelessly exploring ways to spend and be spent for Him, growing in character to be more and more like Him—and I will show you a person who is filled with the Holy Spirit. (Loc. 5120)
The Bad

I don't want this to sound like just a commercial for this book, so I do have to include a nitpick I have. Over the past few years the Christian community has had its discernment piqued to multiple Bible translations used in a single book. When an author steps away from a single translation, red flags should appear everywhere to the reader. This is usually a sign that the author is making an unbiblical point which he needs a bad translation to support, and so jumps from the KJV to the CEV to the AMP to the Message to the NIV and occasionally to their own translation (think N.T. Wright).

Phillips jumps around a lot, but it's for a totally different reason. He genuinely knows what the Greek says, and he wants the point of the passage to be transmitted most accurately to the reader. I did not disagree a single time with any of his translations, and I checked most of them, because honestly, red flags shot up everywhere for me when I saw multiple translations being used.

While I commend Phillips for his desire to get the biblical author's point across, I am worried that readers may be inclined to doubt the veracity of their translation, wondering if they need to learn Greek just to understand their Bibles; wondering if any translation is correct.

Honestly, Phillips says things in this book that most modern authors are not saying; they are great things, biblical things, world-tilting things, things which the "radical" crowd utterly misses, and I would hate for a reader to think Phillips had arrived at those things because he found them in the original languages, things which had been lost in translation. In actuality, these things are actually included quite perspicuously in your ESV Bible, your KJV Bible, your (1st gen) NIV Bible, your NASB Bible, RSV, NRSV, NKVJ, Holman, NLT...etc. etc, you only need to read your Bible looking for the author's intention to see them.

If there is one opportunity for major improvement in The World-Tilting Gospel, my opinion is that a writer does much better to stick to a single translation, only correcting its translation when it is blatantly wrong or ambiguous, so as to ensure lay readers that their Bible translation is trustworthy, because most are.

Conclusion

The World-Tilting Gospel is a masterful summary of the message of the Bible and Christianity. It makes an amazing case for the importance of recognizing man's hopelessness, God's saving grace, the extent of that grace, and the motivation for Christians to be preaching and living this message while being strengthened by the Holy Spirit.

There is really nothing new in Phillips' book, but the straightforward way in which he presents this message is sure to open the eyes of readers to the veracity of the Sovereignty of God and the bonded will of man; to the utter perfection of God's plan and his power to save. The cross of Christ comes alive to be not just be an afterthought in a Christian's past, but first it radically impacts the believer's life, and then the world in which that believer lives.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wonders why their Christianity has not turned their life or community upside down and who wants to see the gospel make a difference in their life and the lives of those around them, and to anyone who wants to understand the message of the Bible.

In an age where most new Christian books are anything but Christian, The World-Tilting Gospel is a light shining in the darkness, exalting Christ, making grace amazing, and motivating Christians to take the true gospel and impact their world with it. Dear reader, I hope you will do just that.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Prayer for Students: Part II

Last year I wrote A Prayer for Students as they transitioned between major events in their lives. This year I have grappled with reposting that prayer, or writing another. As I read through that prayer, I realized that the circumstances this year are considerably different, and so a different prayer would be fruitful.

One of my favorite verses came to mind, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” As I prayed for dozens upon dozens of students by name, a continual theme of the rest of 1 Thessalonians came to mind, and I’ve structured this prayer closely to that Epistle, since Paul, Silas, and Timothy were praying and instructing people they were absent from. My prayer is for people who are scattered throughout several churches, throughout the country, and even throughout the world, some I'll see again, some not until Heaven, so I felt that this was a perfect endeavor.

Invocation

Lord of Hosts, God of Ages, I give thanks to you for the exceeding joy of knowing your Son Jesus Christ and his glorious church of saints. I thank you that you have chosen a remnant out of every people and shown us who those people are by equipping them in faith, love, and hope in the work and person of your Son, it’s in his name that I approach your throne of grace to receive help for my fellow saints as they walk through this world.

Conviction in the Word

Strengthen these students in your Bible, let it not just be letters on a page to them, but bring it in power with full conviction of your Holy Spirit. Let them see it for what it is, not the words of men, but the very Word of God, which is at work in all believers. If any of these students have not yet been called into your kingdom, have not repented and placed their faith in the Resurrected Christ, then I ask you to call them into your kingdom and glory.

Boldness

Father, give them boldness and wisdom to take the Word into every corner of their worlds. Give them the words to speak, the people to speak them to, and the boldness to speak them. May they stand as priests, prophets, and ambassadors of the Living Christ, walking worthy of this call and making disciples of all nations, beginning with their own neighbors.

Character

Be growing these students to be worthy of imitation of all who see them, let them be examples in love and faithfulness. May they never come with words of flattery, or a pretext for greed, or seeking their own glory, but let them be affectionately desirous that everyone who knows them will glorify Christ on their behalf, first through conversion and then through life.

May you be motivating them towards good words and works, that they would be a burden to none. Especially towards the church may they prove to be holy, righteous, and blameless in all of their conduct.

May they prove to be the hope, joy, and crown of boasting for myself and all who have ministered to and among them, that at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ we may all be presented mature. May they have the joy of being able to say the same of their own disciples.

Faithful Shepherds

Father, appoint faithful ministers over these students, ministers that will with confidence be able to say, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ,” let them stand firm on the Word and carry it outside of the camp. If they are content to sit within the walls of the church then Father chase them out. Let them supply what is lacking in these students’ faith.

Send your Comforter to calm my anxiety that the tempter will tempt these students and my labor will have been in vain. You promise that when your Spirit begins a good work in someone, he will see it to conclusion, and I pray that you will be doing just that for these students through your Spirit.

Perseverance

Send these students through the purifying fire, knowing that your Son has walked that path and promises to be with us until the end of the age. May they not be surprised when persecution comes, but let them welcome it as partaking with Christ in his suffering. Let them see the benefits of these afflictions, may they not be moved by them. May these persecutions open opportunities for them to abound in love for one another and for all, and establish their hearts blameless in holiness, eagerly awaiting the coming of Christ.

Purity

Father, what joy it is to know that your will for us is our sanctification. I pray that you would be progressing these students to be more and more like Christ every day. Father, keep them from sin, deliver them from temptation, especially concerning sexual immorality. They see daily the passions of lust which the world walks in, so I pray that they would learn from a young age how to control their bodies in holiness and honor.

Concerning these young men, that you would show them how to make a covenant with their eyes, that they would not look upon anything which they ought not, that they would be concerned with honor and wholesomeness in all of their interactions, and that they would exercise self control which will keep them, their future wives, and your Son from being ashamed.

Concerning these young ladies, Father, you have outdone yourself in giving them the gift of beauty. I ask for mine and their sake that you would blind the eyes of every boy in their schools towards them. Let these young ladies’ adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in your sight is very precious.

Hope

Father, set these students’ affections firmly on Heaven, let them know that whether they are alive or dead in the flesh, they have nothing to fear, for you have destined them for salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Fully clothe them in the faith, love, and hope that this produces, so that they will live as children of the light.

May they go into every situation knowing that you are a God who works all things for good to those who love you and are called according to your purpose. May this confidence motivate them to preach to every person they encounter, and edify them in the truth of your Sovereignty. May they forever know that free-will is a myth and that while we were slaves to sin, you called us into the freedom of your Son so that we are not destined for wrath.

The Good Fight

Let everything these students do be done in love, let them love their churches, and especially those who minister the truth over them. Let them see that these are not just their pastors, but their parents as well; let them honor them in everything they do. May their lives on this earth both be long and abounding in the fruit of the Spirit.

Let their love be one that strives for holiness, correcting those who are in sin. Grant them patience and an overabundance of charity. How true it is that bad company ruins good morals, so Father I ask you to surround these students with only those who are able to stir them up for good works through accountability and striving for holiness, or those who are open to listen, who are impressionable, and whom your Spirit will call to yourself through the good word and works of these students. Let these students never be content with lazy or impenitent acquaintances, but give them the boldness to confront sin in every manifestation.

Let them rejoice in the work you are doing in and around them. May they be frequent in prayer, giving thanks in all circumstances, knowing that Christ has prepared this path beforehand for them to walk. May they never quench the Spirit by hating godly preaching, but let them recognize bad preaching and reject it, holding only to that which aligns with your Word. Train their powers of discernment through constant practice to distinguish good from evil. In everything they do, may they be holding to the good, but hating and avoiding every form of evil.

Benediction

God of peace, sanctify these students completely, may their whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of their Lord Jesus Christ. You are faithful, Father, I know you will surely do it.

You have loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, now comfort our hearts and establish them in every good work and word. Establish us and guard us against the evil one, direct our hearts to your love and to the steadfastness of Christ.

I ask all of these things in the name of our righteous and resurrected Redeemer, Jesus Christ, for his is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is his. He is exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from him, and he rules over all. In his hand is power and might, and in his hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. Amen.