Due to inclement weather, the 9 a.m. service for Sunday, Jan. 20 has been cancelled. We will have one morning service at 10:45 a.m. as road conditions improve.

Rescue the Perishing

by David Lemming

Will you consider an important question with me in this article for just a few moments? No one will know your personal answer and I’m not asking you to make it public. However, if we will all be genuine with ourselves and allow a measure of transparency before the Lord, I believe this exercise can help us advance the Gospel as we get #backtothemission  this year.

The Apostle Peter made an extraordinary statement in his second epistle. He writes, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
(2 Peter 3:9)

Did you see the phrase, “God is not willing that any should perish”? Do we really believe what it says? Clearly, Peter isn’t teaching that ultimately everybody will be saved and have a place in Heaven. There are too many other passages that affirm the exact opposite and warn those who do not believe in Jesus that they will be separated from God for eternity.

The New International Bible Commentary is one example of how we can understand what Peter means here. It says, “This text does not teach that God actually decrees that all will be saved (universalism). The reference here is not to God’s decree, but to His desire. Obviously, everything that a sovereign God decrees will occur. Here Peter is describing the sovereign God’s desire that all people would turn to Him and turn away from unprofitable lives (1 Tim. 2:4).”

Just to be clear, what God “decrees” He always accomplishes, but what He “desires” may not always be realized. That doesn’t mean that God has failed, but rather that He has left room for mankind’s free will to operate, in this case. Could He override our wills? Absolutely, but in His sovereignty, He has allowed our free will to operate without sacrificing His sovereignty.

Please don’t get too bogged down in the theological argument above and miss the basic point we have to consider. If God is not willing that any should perish, are we then willing to do all we can to get the Gospel to every man, woman, boy, and girl?

Obviously, God can do anything He wants to do without our help. After all, He is omnipotent! However, He has chosen to bring the Good News of the Gospel to our communities and world through the instrumentality of people like you and me. We have been afforded the privilege to be His ambassadors in this world. That also means the responsibility is ours to spread the Gospel as broadly as possible as He commands. Could He do all of this without us? Sure He could, but He has chosen to accomplish His purposes through us.

It’s been estimated that over two billion people in our world either have no access or only limited access to the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. Actually, some of the people on your street and at your workplace are among the people that have never heard a clear presentation of the Gospel because we haven’t effectively carried it to them.

Did you know that statistics show that ninety-five percent of all Christians have never won a soul to Christ? Eighty percent of all Christians do not consistently witness for Christ. Less than two percent are involved in the ministry of evangelism. And, seventy-one percent do not give toward the financing of the Great Commission. Do those numbers alarm you?

On the one hand, I think most of us would say we are grateful that “God is not willing that any should perish,” but then our actions (as described in the statistics) too often show that we are OK if people perish in their sins. There is clearly a dichotomy between what we say we believe and how we work out those beliefs in our daily lives and finances.

The fact is that all of us should care about the eternal destinies of the people that are already in our network of influence. But, we should also care about those that are in places we can’t personally reach and do all we can to help get the Gospel to those people. Both of these efforts are what we call missions!

You and I were blessed to be born in a country where the Gospel can freely be shared in almost any forum and any place. Most of us have heard the Gospel hundreds, if not thousands of times in the course of our lives. Even at that, you likely didn’t come to Christ the first time you heard it. It took multiple times of hearing and considering what Christ did for you before you put your faith in Jesus for eternal life. I’m grateful that we have such opportunities in our country and that people didn’t stop bringing the message when we didn’t believe it at first.

This month we are thinking about those in other parts of the world that need the Gospel and asking ourselves how we can send this life-changing message to them! After two years with the absence of hosting missionaries and focusing on the needs of the world for the Gospel, it’s time to go #backtothemission! In other words, the way forward for us is to go back to what is at God’s heart...spreading the Gospel to people everywhere.

The question I’ve been getting to since the beginning of this article that I want you to consider with me comes from what Peter tells us about our God: If He is not willing that any should perish...are you?

If your heart is in tune with the heart of God, I believe you’ll have to answer that you are NOT willing that any should perish, either. That means you will make every effort to join the collective efforts of your church family to help us extend the Gospel to places we do not live and cannot go. It also means we will do all we can to carry that same Gospel to our own families, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and acquaintances!
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