The Seven Summits

The life of a Christ-follower is a journey. Jesus offers us a full and meaningful life (John 10:10). He is the only source and giver of eternal life and the one and only way to the Heavenly Father, the one true and living God (John 14:6).

The choice to trust Christ, embrace His Gospel, and follow Him as a disciple is a choice to take a narrow trail in life. Most of humanity will take a wide road and enter a broad gate that leads to destruction. But followers of Jesus Christ have decided to walk through a narrow gate and embrace a difficult path and become part of the few who really experience life this side of heaven and for eternity (Matthew 7:13-14)

Though the trail we take is difficult and unpopular, I agree with the words of singer and song writer Steven Curits Chapman who testifies decades ago that “there is no better place on earth than the road that leads to heaven!”

The Seven Summits at Trinity Baptist Church refers to the fact that our spiritual journey is along a narrow and adventurous trail. Each section of this trail, however, leads to a beautiful summit of celebration. Though the way is not easy, it is an empowered way. We are guided by the Word of God and the Spirit of God. We have taken Jesus by the hand and said, “I will walk with you through this life until you say it is time to step into eternity.”

This way is also a fulfilling adventure. Our souls are redeemed by the blood of Christ by grace through faith in His atoning death and victorious resurrection (Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This places us on a new path of discipleship.

The Seven Summits provide us with competencies to actualize our core values and biblical vision. That vision is summarized in the words “leading our neighbors, the nations, and the next generation to know love and serve Jesus Christ.” These competencies are both sequential and concurrent. First, we look at them sequentially as a paradigm for coming alongside the home to bring up a generation of Christ-followers from birth until they are launched from the home in pursuit of a calling, career, continuing ed, marriage, family, etc. Second, we look at these summits concurrently as a tool for spiritual check-ups in our lives as adults, in our homes, and in evaluating the various ministries and programs of our church and their effectiveness.

So, what are the Seven Summits?

(Click here for the sermon series that introduced the Seven Summits to Trinity.)

(1) Provision Summit: We are committed as a church to provide, and equip families to provide, an environment where the love of God is made manifest and where His Word, the Bible, serves as His perfect authority in our lives. The passage known as the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and quoted by Jesus as the greatest commandment is central to this summit.

The corporate expression and celebration of this summit is seen our parent/child dedications. From the moment of birth and throughout the preschool years children are able to be established in the facts that God loves us and His Word is true, and a love for God and His Word will always remain foundational for the journey on the narrow road for all ages.

(2) Presentation Summit: We are committed to present, and equip families to present, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and call for a faith response to the Gospel. The fact that God loves us is the basis for His sending of His only Son to die for us that we might have everlasting life by believing in Him (John 3:16). During the grade school years children are becoming able to express remorse for sin, the need for a savior, a comprehension of the Gospel, and what it means to express repentance and faith.

The celebration of this summit is water baptism. This is the first step of obedience for the one who, at whatever age, turns from sin and self and places their trust in Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection for forgiveness and new life.

(3) Preparation Summit: We are committed to prepare, and equip families to prepare, the next generation and all of those who have been saved by grace to grow in their relationship with Jesus. Sequentially, as children are “preparing” for adolescence it is important for them to be established in their identity with Christ and His Church. At this point they can learn the various spiritual disciplines like prayer, worship, Bible study, witnessing, and serving in the church. Concurrently, all believers need to be sharpened on this section of the narrow road.

The celebration of this summit is to encourage a retreat with parents and their “tweens” where they set aside time to discuss identity in Christ, spiritual disciplines, and prepare them for adolescence with talks about the changes that they are beginning to experience in their body, mind, and emotions. Yes, this includes having the birds and the bees talk!

(4) Purity Summit: We are committed to promote a lifestyle of purity and consecration unto our Lord. Holiness as a way of life particularly begins to be tested during those latter middle school years. If habits of purity and personal commitments to live a life of virtue aren’t made during these years, the high school and college years can be an almost impossible season to right the ship. In an age of smart phones and laptops, the purity of our students is under attack like never before. The church and the home must step up and teach that God’s will for our lives is our sanctification, specifically that we are guarded against sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).

The celebration of this summit includes a right of passage ceremony for young men and the presentation of a purity ring (during a special father/daughter date if possible) to young ladies as near their thirteenth birthday as possible. Concurrently, the life of holiness and a commitment to biblical manhood and womanhood shall be constantly admonished in our student and adult ministries.

(5) Purpose Summit: We are committed to equipping our families to understand their biblical purpose and mission in life. As we look at the summits sequentially, we realize that those early high school years demand that Christ-followers know what they believe and have something solid to stand on and stand for. They can only say “no” to sin for so long unless they say “yes” to something of far greater value, that pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46). As we embrace the joy of living life on mission for Jesus Christ, we find the motivation to continue in purity and power as an effective witness. Again, concurrently, this is an area (as is each summit) of sharpening for students and adults of all ages.

To celebrate and reinforce this summit we encourage students, accompanied by parents if possible, to participate in a mission trip. We offer opportunities in our community, throughout North America, and even internationally. Our church is committed financially to backing such endeavors. We pray that it will be the beginning of a life lived on mission for Christ.

(6) Passion Summit: We are committed, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to igniting a passion in our students and adults for a life of service to Christ through and alongside His Church. During the latter high school years students are full of passion that can be righteously channeled for the glory of God. This should be a season of discovering one’s spiritual gifts, developing talents for Christ, committing to biblical stewardship, committing to God’s standards for marriage and family, and growing deeper in the spiritual disciplines and Christian apologetics. This is most certainly a section of the trail that adult believers should revisit again and again.

The celebration for this summit is a junior/senior retreat where our 16 to 18 year-olds are challenged with the aforementioned commitments. While our parents and small group leaders will be presented with resources to assist their leadership in these areas, our church staff and leaders desire to be equipped to answer life’s most difficult questions encountered when hiking this section.

(7) Pursuit Summit: We are committed to continue alongside our young people as they launch out from the home to pursue God’s plan for their lives. As they pursue a career, a season of continuing education, a spouse, military service, or anything else, we want to empower and commission them to do so for the glory of God with great enthusiasm (Colossians 3:23-24). Concurrently, the principles of this summit will be reviewed often in the pulpit and in various small group ministries within the church.

The celebration for this summit is two-fold. Corporately we will have a Graduate Recognition service each May where we recognize and publicly charge our high school graduates to pursue God’s call on their lives. We also encourage families to host their own celebration at a venue and in a context where parents can speak words of public affirmation into the life of their child.

These are the seven summits. While the philosophy behind the summits seems very “next generational,” you need to know that it is never too late to enter through the narrow gate and join the exciting journey down the narrow path that leads to life!

We will continue to develop and sharpen each of these summits. This process will include an evaluation of curriculum and programming for our preschool department, children’s ministry, and student ministry. We will also continue to recommend and provide resources to parents and all adults to facilitate this discipleship strategy in the home. Finally, if you pay close attention you will notice the themes of these summits continually resurfacing in the pulpit ministry at Trinity.

So, grab your hiking gear and join us for the journey of a lifetime that continues until Christ calls us home!

For God So Loved

I am sure that children all over the nation have enjoyed wearing the new off the gifts they opened on Christmas Day. I remember the excitement of those most anticipated presents – bicycles, electric racetracks, or a set of walkie talkies. I couldn’t wait to open the gifts and play with them from sunrise to sunset until school started back.

The fact that the joy brought by those gifts seems short-lived serves as a reminder that there is only one truly great gift given at Christmas that lasts forever in the lives of those who will receive it. I should say “receive Him.” The gift of Jesus was the greatest gift of love ever given!

During the 2017 Advent Season the Trinity family focused on the hope, peace, and joy that is only found in Christ. Then we closed out the season by taking a closer look, perhaps a refreshing new look, at John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

This one verse teaches us so much that our world needs to know about real love. Take a closer look with me! Be reminded of the simple and profound truths.

  1. The Source of Love is God Himself! For God so loved. Agape (selfless, self-sacrificing, unconditional love) flows from the very character and nature of God. He is Love. “For love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God… for God is love!” (1 John 4:7-8)

So many of God’s communicable attributes (relational in nature) flow from this perfect quality of love. Out of His love we experience His grace, mercy, faithfulness, and even His righteous jealousy. This kind of love can’t be generated by mere mortals! We can only be a channel of His love as we open our lives to it and allow it to flow through us into this world.

It is impossible to give and receive love, this kind of love, apart from a relationship with the personification of love, Jesus Christ himself.

  1. The Scope of Love is the Whole World. For God so loved THE WORLD. We have to be careful of a couple areas of interpretation and application at this point.

First, “the world” does not refer to the worldly system or the material aspects of the world. This same Gospel writer would late warn in his first epistle that we not to love the world or the things in the world characterized by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

Second, the fact that God loves all the people in the world does not mean that everyone will receive and respond to His love with faith and repentance. Universal love does not equal universal-ism and salvation for all. Though the scope of his love is broad, John 1:12 reminds us that only those who receive him are given the right to be called the children of God.

  1. The Sacrifice of Love is the Gift of God’s Son. For God so loved that HE GAVE! Yes, God gave His only Son is a reference to that first Advent. And the first Advent of Christ included much more than the incarnation.

Let us not neglect the context of John 3:16. Jesus was having a conversation with Nicodemus about being “born again” and seeing the kingdom of God. In this context Jesus explained that “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” (John 3:14)

The lifting up that Jesus was speaking of was a clear reference to his death on a cross. Just as the Israelites had to look at the bronze serpent in faith for their healing in Numbers 21, we must look to the Cross of Christ in faith for our salvation.

Jesus was born for a cross! And His cross would be the greatest demonstration of love the world has ever seen. While many have died saving others (John 15:13), no one else has ever become sin for us and died in our place while we were still sinners! Nor could anyone else! (Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:10, 2 Corinthians 5:21)

  1. The Saving Power of Love is Experienced through Faith!

“Whosoever believes” implies that, though not automatic, forgiveness is available for all! But it must be received by faith. Biblical faith is a repentant faith, turning from sin and self to place our complete trust in the atoning death of Christ who rose, ascended, and sent His Spirit to take up residence in the life of believers. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 8:9)

The saving power of this love rescues us from death, for we “shall not perish!” This is speaking of the second death, an eternal spiritual death and separation from the loving presence of God. (Revelation 21:8) Jesus was explaining to Nicodemus that if you are born once, you will die twice. But if you are born twice, physically as well as born of the Spirit, you will only die once. The believer will never experience the second death!

Love is pictured in sacrifice, but perpetuated through a relationship. And God sent His Son so that you might have life in His Name and enjoy living in fellowship with Him forever!

As the late hymn writer, James McConnell put it…

Oh, what wonderful love, oh, what grace divine,
That Jesus should die for me;
I was lost in sin, for the world I pined,
But now I am set free.
Whosoever surely meaneth me,
Surely meaneth me, oh, surely meaneth me;
Whosoever surely meaneth me,
Whosoever meaneth me.

Lift Your Head! (Revelation Intro)

(Click here for the sermon audio of the Introductory sermon to Revelation.)

In his commentary on The Revelation of Jesus Christ, John Walvoord says:

“No other book evokes the same fascination… the book reveals truth relative to every important fundamental of Christianity. It is advanced in the Gospels which unfold the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God. The epistles add the theological interpretation of the person and work of Christ. To all of this dramatic and tremendously significant revelation, the last book of the Bible provides the capstone. It is indeed THE Revelation of Jesus Christ not only as the Lamb that was slain, but as King of Kings and Lord of lords who is certain to return.” (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Walvoord. p. 7)

Many evangelicals and mainline Christians read this book in hopes of discovering within the apocalyptic literature a secret to identifying antichrist or predicting the hour of Christ’s return. But it’s not “the revelation of antichrist” or the “revelation of the date of Christ’s return.” The book was given the title by its author, John, under the direction of our Lord. It is, indeed, The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

There are a variety of interpretive approaches. While I believe the Revelation contains apocalyptic visions describing the consummation of the ages, we must never forget that this book meant something, from beginning to end, to the persecuted church at the end of the first century. Actually, that should give the book greater relevance. For we are not certain whether or not Christ will return in our lifetime. But we can be certain that the church will face persecution, and is facing great persecution, in the last days.

The Revelation of our risen and glorified Lord served as great encouragement to the suffering churches in Asia Minor. Therefore, I believe these scriptures will encourage the body of Christ to lift our heads in the face of the persecution and marginalization we are facing as believers around the world in the twenty-first century.

How Jesus Christ is being revealed in this book:

  1. The Person of Christ is Being Revealed: It is the “revelation” (unveiling) of Jesus Christ (vs. 1). Jesus appeared to his beloved disciple personally. Can you imagine what that must have meant to the one who overheard Jesus tell Peter, “What’s it to you if he lives until I return?” If we read this book with greater passion to determine dates, interpret current events in the Middle East, or identify antichrist than we do to fall more in love with our resurrected Lord, we are missing the point. Verse 2 reminds us that this is the testimony of Jesus Christ!
  2. The Promises of Christ are Being Revealed: Verse 3 contains the first of seven beatitudes, promises of blessings for those who read this book, obey its precepts, or heed its warnings. Yes, many of the promises are contextualized by apocalyptic visions. The principles behind the precepts, however, point to a blessed way of life and entrance into eternity for those who walk faithfully with our Lord.
  3. The Power of Christ is Being Revealed: The seven churches, as referenced in verse 4, are quickly reminded that Jesus is still on His throne. The “seven spirits” possibly even refers to the omnipresent nature of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, as the “firstborn from the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth”, not only has resurrection power, he also has ruling authority! (vs. 5)
  4. The Purposes of Christ are Being Revealed: Verse 5b-6 serve as reminders that everything that was, and is, and is to come is wrapped up in the message of the Gospel of the kingdom and the Glory of God. As Christ-followers, Revelation should motivate us to live to those ends… knowing and glorifying Jesus Christ as we make Him known to the world, over which He has ultimate dominion.
  5. The Plans of Christ are Being Revealed: Verses 7 and 8 conclude this introduction with a reminder from John that Jesus is coming. While we do not know the day or our, we find strength for living in knowing that he will return and make all things right!

I know the message of the Gospel is not as popular in our nation as it once was. I also realize that religious freedom is under fire like never before. But as we study this book written to a church that had suffered immensely under the hands of Roman emperors Nero and Domitian, we are reminded that Christ’s faithful servants can lift their heads come what may! Lift your head today and walk in the confidence of one to whom Jesus Christ has been revealed.

Don’t Stunt Your Growth!

(Click Here to Listen to the Complete Sermon)

I enjoy a good cup of joe as much as anyone. And its not always for the early morning stimulation. I like a variety of flavors and origins, both regular and decaf. One add for a particular brand of energy shot asked the question, “Why drink 3 or 4 cups of coffee when you could have 1 (perhaps 3 ounces) of [this energy shot]. My answer was simple. I enjoy drinking coffee. 

But I remember when I was younger, in my teens, and I received this warning from a few adults – “Coffee will stunt your growth.” I didn’t want to stunt my growth! I was a skinny dude back then. Perhaps the fact some older men would occasionally inform me that coffee would help grow hair on my chest brought the balance I needed to continue the coffee habit.

Isn’t it funny that we will so seriously consider the impact of something on our physical growth and development, but pay little attention to those things that affect our spiritual growth and development?

In Ephesians 4:1-16 the Apostle Paul provides us with insight into stages of spiritual growth. There are individual and corporate implications to these principles. This letter, in providing a dissertation on “body life”, transitions from the doctrinal to the practical at this point. In doing so, we are given sort of a check list, if you will, to examine where we are and how we’re doing in our spiritual journey.

1. Evangelized with the Message of Christ. (Verses 1-9)

In the first verse we are reminded that salvation, as described in the previous chapter, is a calling to be lived out. So “walk in it.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 informs us that we a new creation, old things are passing away and all things are becoming new. Anyone reading this should stop and ask, “Has there been a time in my life when I turned from sin and self, trusted Jesus Christ and His Gospel alone for salvation, believing completely in the finished work on the cross and confirmed by the resurrection?”

Verses 2-3 describe the fruitfulness of such a life transforming response to the Gospel. Our lives give evidence of faith and repentance in how we relate to others. So there is a test of our fruitfulness that is described throughout the New Testament in passages like John 15:1-17.

There is also the test of right beliefs. In verses 8-10, Paul describes the humiliation and exaltation of Jesus Christ. The fact that Christ “descended” points out that He is the “Word Made Flesh” from John 1:1&14. Philippians 2:5-11 describes his “descending” as becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross, but now having been exalted (resurrection and ascension) to the right hand of the Father! There are also glimpses of Pentecost and the indwelling Spirit in the final words of both verses 6 and 10. Paul would build on this in Ephesians 5, specifically verse 18 which admonishes us to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit.

Hopefully this clarifies the fact that evangelism isn’t just leading someone to make a faith decision and chalking them up as being on “our side” now. Evangelism and discipleship are mutually exclusive. In fact, they are so far from that they are almost synonymous. To be evangelized with the message of Christ is to have begun cooperating with the process of discipleship. This leads to the next stage in our checklist.

2. Equipped for the Ministry of the Cross. (Verses 10-12a)

As Paul continues to describe the “body life” that believers who have been evangelized are called into, he promptly explains that ministry leaders, including pastor-teachers, have been placed within the various local congregations for the “equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry.” (vs. 11)

One might think that Paul would have dealt with growing toward maturity, as he does immediately following the subject of equipping, before he explains that those who are evangelized are called to a ministry. I have certainly taken that approach as a leader at times. I mean, why would we be given an assignment before we’ve proven ourselves and become better established, right?

One way to illustrate what I believe Paul is setting forth under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is to compare it to when I became a father. There is nothing like knowing that you are about to become a father, nothing like holding that newborn in your hands, to make you see the importance of being a leader, growing in maturity, acting like an adult, and learning everything you can about being a dad.

If new believers understand that they are called to be equipped for ministry, this will increase their recognition of the need to grow in grace as disciples of Jesus. There is a holy sense of inadequacy that accompanies God-given ministry that drives us to be all that we can be for His glory. 

3. Edified toward Maturity as a Christian. (Verses 12b-13)

Both individually and corporately we are being “built up” as a mature Christian and a unified body prepared to exert major kingdom influence in the world for the glory of God. In fact, love and unity among members of the body becomes an evidence that we are being edified (or built up) as individuals Christ-followers.

Mature believers hunger for depth in the study of God’s Word as it pertains to all of life. You will find them taking notes during sermons and small group Bible studies. They will learn to depend on a daily devotional time in the Word and in prayer. Though avoiding legalistic tendencies, you will find them tuning their car radios (or designing their playlists and accessing podcasts) more and more around the music and Bible teaching that feeds their souls. 

4. Established in the Mutuality of the Church. (Verses 14-16)

A spiritually mature believer, or one who is moving toward maturity, will delight in being knit into the fabric of the church. This is authentic body life. We may seem like a small and insignificant part of the body, but Paul says that we are all “supporting ligaments.”

If you encounter me on the street, in the pulpit, or in the bleachers of a football game, you may conclude that I am in relatively good health other than being a little overweight. What you likely will not discern is that I am far from being at my best when it comes to pick-up basketball (which I used to really love) or hitting the tennis courts with my kids. No, I am not referring to the aging process here, though that may not be totally unrelated.

The fact is, I have blown out the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) for yet a second time. And, at my age, I am delaying surgery for now. Indeed, our church may look healthy to outsiders. And in many areas we are functioning with a great degree of “church health.” But we aren’t reaching our full potential. Why? There are various supporting ligaments that are not in place. Paul describes a need here for the “whole body” to be functioning as one. 

I am afraid that we must constantly strive to overcome the consumer mentality of the church. The temptation is to show up on Sundays for a little encouragement to get through this thing called life. But when one comes to faith in Christ after being evangelized with the message of the Gospel, he or she has been enlisted in God’s army. And one doesn’t enlist to simply wear the uniform and enhance their resume. No, we then receive equipment for the duty we’ve been assigned. We begin to grow and develop. We realize we are part of a team that depends on us to help accomplish a mission. And, in the body of Christ, our mission is to make Him known to our neighbor, the nations, and the next generation.