Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Bloodiest Verse in the Bible

Our faith is a bloody faith. Christ Himself sealed our salvation through His own ignominiously bloody death on the cross. Now, as His ambassadors (II Corinthians 5:20-21), we are to "proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" (I Corinthians 11:26).

Today, as tasteless comical caricatures of Mohammad are causing a heated dissension around the world, we as believers in Christ are reminded that Christ's scorning is the emblem of our faith! Instead of outrage, we are to "rejoice and be glad" when we are insulted, persecuted, and when others "say all manner of evil against us falsely on account of Christ" (Matthew 5:11-12). Against all logic, our joy in persecution is deeply embedded in the persecution of our Head, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Had there been no reviling of Christ, no scorn, no wagging of the heads, no spitting upon, no mockery, no bloody dangling on a cross as a piece of meat suspended between heaven and earth, we would have no hope at all! Indeed our hope is securely rooted in the fact that our Christ was the object of ridicule!

Our bloody, throat-slit Lamb, is resurrected, ruling, and one day returning! In this interval between Christ's ascension to heaven and His return to earth, Christ has bid us to join in His redemptive purposes. But how? The gospel! The bloody gospel! Matthew 28:18-20 is not just the "Great Commission," it is the "Great Church Planting Commission." Where is church planting in the great commission? "Baptizing them...," that's where! This commission is a "local church" commission! How will we obey this "final command" of our resurrected Savior? By starting churches that preach a God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, Spirit-empowered bloody gospel!

In America in the year 1900 there were approximately 30 churches for every 10,000 people. In 1950, there were approximately 24 churches for every 10,000 people. In 1996, there were approximately 16 churches for every 10,000 people. See the pattern? Every year about 3,500 churches "shut their doors" never to open again! On the flip-side, there are only about 1,500 churches started each year! Unfortunately we are on the retreat. More unfortunately this is diametrically opposed to Christ's teaching in Matthew 16:18, which teaches us to be on the offense with Christ in starting churches. Not neutral, not "holding our ground," but on the offense! "The gates of hell will not prevail against [the church]" (Matthew 16:18). The gates of hell tremble as we march forward with bloody-gospel proclaiming church plants.

How will we obey the Great Commission? How will we engage in an obedience that "makes disciples of all nations?" Now, in God's gracious providence, America is being infiltrated by peoples from all nations of the world. Although a clear call to "go" exists in the Scriptures, we find ourselves uniquely poised to "go" to the nations by driving around the corner from where most of us live! Many other nations are beginning to see this reality and are viewing America as one of their primary mission fields!

So, what is the bloodiest verse in the Bible? The bloodiest verse is the verse that commands us to make disciples of all nations. Why? In order to fulfill this command, and make disciples of Christ, we must introduce all nations (literally, "all the people") to our bloody Savior! "The gospel" of the capillary-bursting blood vessels of Christ, the cat-of-nine-tails shredded back of Christ, the nail-punctured hands and feet of Christ, the thorn-embedded skull of Christ, and the spear-injected side of Christ, the dead and borrowed-tomb buried Christ, and the resurrected All-Authoritative Kingly Christ, who in His death took the sins of man and exchanged them for the righteousness of God! This gospel "must be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations (literally, "all the people"), and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14). Without this bloody gospel, there will be no disciple making among the nations! There is one entry for disciples into the local church, and into a proper "baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20), and it is the gospel of the bloody cross of Christ!

"For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." I Corinthians 2:2

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