Thursday, July 26, 2012


2 Corinthians 4:7-9, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of this power may be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

I recently finished reading a great missionary biography entitled “Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime.” It tells the story of her missionary endeavors in China. Gladys was born to a working class family in Edmonton, London in 1902. She heard of the need in China and felt compelled to go and serve. But she was turned down by missionary training school because she lacked the academic ability to keep up in her classes. Undeterred, she saved up money and spent her life savings on a passage to Yuncheng, Shanxi Province, China. Single and 29 years old she undertook a perilous journey across Europe and through Siberia by train. She was once abandoned along the tracks and nearly froze to death when a war stopped the train in Siberia. She later narrowly escaped being kidnapped. She ultimately made her way to China only to find that her mentor, Jeannie Lawson, had previously departed for the interior.

She finally made her way to the village and to Jeannie. Her first venture into the remote village was met with a rude response—the residents threw dirt clods at her, calling her a “foreign devil.” Gladys and Jeannie had a home—they were able to rent it at discounted rate because the townspeople thought it to be haunted—but they were unable to make any progress in sharing the gospel. One day it occurred to them both that they could turn their home into an inn—a place to stay for the muleteers who transported people and goods from village to village. By showing loving hospitality in a place “without fleas” they would gain a hearing and an opportunity to share. They remodeled their home and named it “The Inn of the Eighth Happiness”--thus began their gospel outreach in that remote part of China.

That ministry was established, only to be abruptly disrupted by Jeannie’s death. Jeannie had been subsidizing the rent and costs of the inn—how would they be able to afford to keep it open? The problem was resolved in a remarkable way. The government of China issued an edict that prohibited “foot-binding.” Foot-binding was a practice in which, supposedly for beauty’s sake, a young girls toes were tied back under her feet. The practice caused both pain and disability, so in the 1930s it was banned by the government. The Mandarin (local government official) was given the responsibility of enforcing the edict. He called upon Gladys to do it. She was thus hired to go from village to village to inspect the feet of all the young girls. The job not only provided the needed funds for the inn, it gave her ample opportunities to share the gospel in homes and villages throughout the region.

One day in the village she came across something especially disturbing. A woman was attempting to sell a young girl. She expressed her concern to the Mandarin. He told her it was none of her business and that she should not interfere. Undeterred, she went back to the woman and bought the girl. Thus began her ministry to orphan children which grew and grew until she was caring for over 200 children. In 1938 the region was invaded by Japanese forces. 100 of the children were led to safety by an assistant. She herself led the rest over mountain passes and through many hazards away from the fighting. At the end of that journey she so weak and diseased she nearly died. She eventually recovered and was there in China when the communists took over. She witnessed the tragic and brutal execution of fellow believers who refused to bow down to the new regime. She returned to England in 1948 and then to Taiwan in 1958 where she founded the Gladys Aylward Orphanage. She worked in that orphanage until her death in 1970.

Gladys Aylward faced many obstacles in her ministry efforts. Her desire to serve was met with rejection, her efforts to serve were met with troubles and trials. Her ministry involved great sacrifice, but she was undeterred. It would have been easy to give up countless times along the way, but she persevered. While she was serving God was working—He opened doors in amazing ways and many heard the truth of the gospel. Eric Liddell, another missionary to China, once said, “Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins. Our broken lives are not lost or useless. God’s love is still working. He comes in and takes the calamity and uses it victoriously, working out his wonderful plan of love.” Don’t be discouraged or deterred by obstacles, they may appear insurmountable to you, but they are miniscule to Him. Indeed, “(He) is Able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20)!”

Pastor Jerry

Benge, Janet and Geoff (1998), Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime, ISBN 978-1-57658-019-6.


1 Corinthians 16:15, “They have addicted themselves to the ministry.”

According to Webster’s Dictionary to be addicted is “to devote or surrender oneself to something habitually or obsessively.” There are a great number of things to which people are prone to become addicted—alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, video games, etc. People can even be addicted to shopping. Oniomania is the technical name given to that disorder.

We are prone, by nature, to addictive behavior. The lusts of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16) constitute desires within us that beg for fulfillment. Pleasure in sin quickly diminishes (Hebrews 11:25), leaving in its path a hunger for more. Every lost person is a sin-addict (Cf. Ephesians 4:19), attempting in sin to fill a vacuum which God alone can satisfy. Sin-addictions are consistent to the “futile way of life inherited from (our) forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18), of which Paul spoke: “Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death” (Romans 6:21).

There is a healthy addiction to which God would direct us. Indwelt by the Spirit of God, the believer in Christ is freed from sin-dependence (Cf. Romans 6:7). The Spirit is at work to transform us and impart to us the mind of Christ. Jesus was an addict of another kind. His life was utterly devoid of sin (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). He was addicted to serving—indeed, that was the purpose for which He came (Mark 10:45). To be delivered from sin-addiction and to be made a “slave of righteousness” is a glorious work He alone can do (Cf. Romans chapter six).

Paul commended the household of Stephanas. “They have addicted themselves to the ministry,” he said. The term “addicted” translates a Greek term means “to arrange, assign, order.” The thought here is that they had so ordered their lives that ministry came first (Cf. Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8:5). The term “ministry” is the Greek, “diakonia,” which speaks of service. It is the same term elsewhere translated “deacon.” The household of Stephanas was addicted to ministry in the sense that they had prioritized their lives such that the service of others came first. They were given to it. Their lives were characterized by it. They were devoted to serving Christ by serving others.

Paul exhorted the Corinthians to “be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors” (1 Corinthians 16:16). Many in the church in Corinth were walking as “mere men” and behaving in selfish and childish ways (Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1-4; 13:11-13). Paul directed them all to the better example of the household of Stephanas. They were walking in an exemplary fashion (Cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17). The church of our day (in America) is characterized by a selfish brand of Christianity that bears little resemblance to its Biblical counterpart. Servanthood—as a virtue--has fallen on hard times amongst some who profess Christ. But there are still many who walk in same the manner that Christ has established (Cf. 1 John 2:6)—let’s be careful to look to their example.

Selfless service is the manner of life to which God has called us. It constitutes true worship (Cf. Hebrews 13:15-16; 2 Corinthians 9:12); will be rewarded at the judgment seat (2 Corinthians 5:10); and blesses others in many ways. “Through love serve one another” Scripture says (Galatians 5:13). Don’t worry about becoming addicted to serving; it is a healthy addiction of which God approves.

Pastor Jerry

Thursday, July 12, 2012


1 Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.”

The sad estate of the unbeliever is described for us in graphic terms in an extended list of sinful careers (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). These activities work to forge an identity for the lost sinner. He doesn’t just fornicate, he is a fornicator. He doesn’t just worship idols, he is an idolater. He doesn’t just steal, he is a thief. And the tragic reality is that he is enslaved in and given over to such practices, the wages of which are death (Romans 6:23). A strong warning is repeated in the text: such individuals “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10).

We were all in that list somewhere, having inherited a sin nature from Adam (Romans 5:12). Left to ourselves we were by birth all destined to a career of sin and its tragic consequence.

Praise God for His glorious intervention in the life of the believer in Christ! “But you were” speaks to that intervention. The phrase is repeated three times in verse 11. At the moment of saving faith a wonderful reorientation and regeneration is accomplished. It does not happen via human effort. It is God’s doing. “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:30). By His doing three marvelous realities take place.

“But you were washed.” This washing was not by human hands. The blood of the lamb has worked to bring about a complete cleansing from sin. The precious blood of the lamb unblemished and spotless has power to cleanse to the innermost being (Cf. 1 Peter 1:19; Hebrews 9:14). “Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power; are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?” If you have, you’ve been thoroughly cleansed from sin.

“But you were sanctified.” The term sanctified means “to be made holy, to be set apart.” It is related to the term “saint.” By God’s gracious intervention the believer in Christ has been set apart from sin and to God. The believer in Christ has been “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” We are “saints by calling,” literally “holy ones” (1 Corinthians 1:2). A person is either an “Aint” without Jesus or a “Saint” in Him (Cf. 1 John 5:11-12). Are you a “saint” in Christ?

“But you were justified.” To be justified is to be declared righteous. In the courtroom of divine justice we were all guilty—we were all by nature career criminals in sin. But God intervened. At the moment of saving faith the righteousness of Christ was imputed to our account (2 Corinthians 5:21). The certificate of debt in sin was cancelled out (Colossians 2:14). We were declared righteous by God Himself on the basis of Christ’s “once for all” payment for our sins’—“the just for the unjust” (1 Peter 3:18).

By God’s intervention the believer in Christ has been cleansed from sin, set apart to God, and declared righteous in Him. “But you were” has made all the difference. This “but you were” speaks to God’s glorious work in Christ “who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Have you had a “but you were” experience in your life? The “but you were” speaks to being “born again.” “You must be born again,” Jesus said (John 3:7). No amount of church-going or religious activities or experience can substitute for being born again. By God’s intervention, “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,” these things take place (Titus 3:5). They happen at the moment of saving faith. They are but three of what Lewis Sperry Chafer calls, “The thirty-three stupendous works of God…(which) are wrought “instantaneously” (“Systematic Theology” by Lewis Sperry Chafer; p. 234).

“Born of the Spirit with life from above into God’s family divine. Justified fully through Calvary’s love, O what a standing is mine! And the transaction so quickly was made, when as a sinner I came, took of the offer of grace He did proffer--He saved me, O praise His dear name.” Heaven came down and glory filled my soul, when at the cross the Savior made me whole; My sins were washed away and my night was turned to day—Heaven came down and glory filled my soul!”

“But you were.” Praise God for His glorious intervention in the life of the believer!

Pastor Jerry