In honor of Reformation Day, we share a scene from “Luther”, Martin Luther’s famous speech in the Diet of Worms. Give glory to God for those godly men who have stood up throughout history to preach the true gospel.
“The thing we kick against the most is the question of pain and suffering. We have naturally the idea that if we are happy and peaceful we are all right…Happiness is not a sign that we are right with God; happiness is a sign of satisfaction, that is all, and the majority of us can be satisfied on too low a level. Jesus Christ disturbs every kind of satisfaction that is less than delight in God. Every strand of sentimental satisfaction is an indication of how much farther we have to go before we understand the life of God, it is the satisfaction of a smug self-interest which God by circumstances and pain shocks us out of as we go in the discipline of life.”
In my last article, I shared three things that I believe every Christian must be doing before they step out into the world to start sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ: study the Word of God, pray, and give worship and praise to the Lord who saved you. All three of these things are the necessisties of any Christian walk. There can be no growth and maturing without them. And they are absolutely essential in preparing one’s self for the spiritual warfare that is the saving of souls. Today, in the theme of preparing ourselves for witnessing, I want to address some rather unbliblical methods that are being employed by Christians, ministries and churches that should avoided. Believe it or not, it really does make a difference about how you share your faith. The methods that I want to share today are very popular, but they are antithetical to the gospel and have often been responsible for creating false converts, those who profess a faith in Christ, but have never truly repented and put their faith in them. If we are to be obedient to the command to preach the gospel, then we want to avoid those methods that are not in line with God’s word.
God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life
Perhaps one of the most common evangelistic approaches today is for the Christian to approach an unrepentant, unregenerate sinner and to explain to him or her that God deeply and truly loves that person and has a “wonderful plan” for their life. The pitch usually states that all the joys of this world are insufficient, always leaving us wanting more. We chase after the elusive concept of happiness, but are never really satisfied. But if the sinner will just “accept Jesus” who died for their sins (a concept only briefly mentioned and never explained) then God will grant them peace, love and joy in abundance, fulfilling all the wants and desires the world never could. The sinner is then encouraged to pray a prayer, to make Jesus their Lord, and then is told without question that they are a Christian and to never, ever doubt it.
This approach sounds so kind and loving, ensuring the lost person that the promises of God will be extended to them without question, so how could there be anything wrong with it? Unfortunately, there is a lot wrong. Let’s start with the fact that the presentation that God “loves the sinner” is innacurate. A sinner, by definition, is a lawbreaker and rebel against the Lord who created him or her. Remember that God is holy and righteous, so much so that a guilty sinner cannot stand in His presence and not be destroyed. In fact, Psalm 7: 11 states, “God is a just judge, and is angry with the wicked every day.” It is a false statement to tell a sinner that God loves them when there are standing in a rebellious state before Him. Such a claim leaves the sinner believing God likes them “for who they are” and that their sins are not really an abomination before Him. If they do not understand the nature of their sin, sinners will not repent before a holy God.
Another problem is the promise that God has a wonderful plan for the sinner. This is problematic on many levels. First off, in their sinful state, the only plan God has for them is judgment. Certainly, this in not “wonderful.” Secondly, if a person truly becomes a Christian, Jesus taught His followers, “Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him,” (John 13: 16). If Christ is the Christian’s master, and Christ was so hated by the world that He was persecuted and crucified, what is the promise for the Christian? Followers of Christ can expect the world to hate and persecute them, and that life in this world will not be comfortable for them. The promises of peace and having an “abundant life” for the Christian are not tied to worldly comforts, but having peace with God through Christ’s shed blood and by no longer being shackled to our sinful nature. Yet, to the unregenerate sinner, such a promise of a “wonderful life” is devoid of such meaning because they lack understanding of their sinful state and coming judgement. Christians dare not use the fruits of salvation as a draw card to entice the unbeliever into becoming a Christian.
Just Let People See Jesus in You
In our current, post-modern culture, telling someone that their life is considered sinful before God and they are pending His righteous judgment is probably the worst “sin” a person can commit. In fact, telling people that your beliefs are right and their’s are wrong is equally terrible in the eyes of society. So the church has developed a much less assertive method of evangelism. This is the “live your life in such a way that people just have to ask you about it” method. I have heard on many occasions from professing Christians that we shouldn’t be pushy or preachy with unbelievers. We should just live good and kind lives. This will clearly lead those around us to see there is something different about us and cause them to ask us what it is. When they do, then we can tell them that Jesus gives us that joy and peace that the rest of the world lacks. Unfortunately, when you press the issue, most Christians will admit that this rarely, if ever happens.
The sad truth of the matter is that this method of evangelism accomplishes nothing. While the Christian must live a life of obedience to God, without an explanation of what the gospel is and why we obey the Lord out of love, the sinner has nothing to differentiate our “good lives” from that of the Hindu, the Muslim or the atheist. Their standard of “good” is a worldly standard, and they will equate the goodness of the Christian is the same as any other religious, or non-religious, person. In other words, they have no real reason to believe that your “good life” is any different than anyone else’s, so there is no need to believe there is anything special about it.
The other problem with this is that the unsaved person is standing before God with His holy and righteous wrath awaiting them. If we desire to see them saved from the fires of Hell, why are we hoping to entice them with a few good works? To borrow an analogy from Ray Comfort, if you saw a neighbor’s house on fire, would you walk up and down the sidewalk in a happy and kind manner hoping to draw them out? Or would you run up to the door, yelling and screaming about the danger they were in and urging them to flee to safety? If you truly care about the unsaved sinner, you will warn them about the danger now, while there is still time.
Friendship evangelism is a modern concept that teaches the Christian must befriend and nuture a realtionship with a person before the subject of Jesus ever comes up. In fact, it is stressed that the Christian must “earn the right” to share the gospel with that person before they ever open their mouth on the subject. The belief is that if we, as Christians, do not earn this right, then we could drive off the person by being too “preachy” or “judgmental” and they will never “accept Jesus.”
Such a method denies several things. First, it denies the very power of the gospel itself. If the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16), then I never need to dress it up, ease it in, or earn the right to proclaim it. It is the very message of God that Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners. There is no more important message to share with someone, a message that has eternal consequences. To delay sharing it because I need to “earn the right” denies that the simple proclamation of it is insufficient and that I must add something to it, my own work, before it can be used.
Secondly, it denies the manner throughout scripture we see it proclaimed. During His earthly ministry, Christ confronted sinners with their desperate need for salvation. In John 3, Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night with great flowing words of praise. Christ did not even hesitate, but told him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” (John 3: 3) Jesus did not attempt to win this influential teacher as a friend, rather he drove straight into the heart of the matter, wasting no time. In the following chapter, Jesus speaks to the woman at the well in Samaria. Once again, we see our Lord wasting no time addressing the alduterous lifestyle of a woman who just met him. He did not attempt a long, extended effort at befriending her, Jesus spoke plainly to her about her greatest need. And if theses examples are not enough, look to Peter at Pentecost where he addressed the crowds and 3,000 came to repentance and faith (Acts 2). Or look to Paul on Mars Hill in Athens where Paul spoke to a crowd of pagan philosophers (Acts 17). In neither case did either of these apostles attempt to befriend the crowds, they simply proclaimed the gospel, trusting in the power of God to bring salvation.
Lastly, it denies the command of God Himself. Jesus commanded His disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” (Mark 16: 15) and to “…make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19). If we practice friendship evangelism, as it is defined today, then we are stating we do not have to follow this command until we feel we are good and ready. We are going to delay the need to obey God’s command until such a time as we feel comfortable to do so. Yet, nowhere in scripture is such a caveat given. Nowhere does Christ command that the gospel message be delayed until a more opportune time. In fact, we are reminded continually that we do not know the hour of Christ’s return, or even when our last breath with be. The gospel message is one that must be proclaimed with urgency. To delay that because we must make them our friend first denies that God will take that person out of this life at a time of His choosing, which could be well before that “friendship” is established. If we practice this method, we are assuming God will allow that person to never encounter death until we have share the gospel with them. That is a dangerous presumption to make. We should never delay this most important message of all.
So What Do I Actually Say?
There is in fact a truly biblical method of evangelism. A method that exposes the unregenerate sinner to his condemned state before God and his desperate need for a Savior. In my next article I will address this method specifically.
Ephesians 1:3-5–3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.
The term conjures up various images in different people depending on their own experiences, the experiences of others, or simply the way foster parents are portrayed in the various media. And the many who do foster do indeed come at it from various angles and for varied reasons. Some do it out of a desire to give hope and a chance to kids that come from broken, crime-riddled, and abusive homes. Some do it (as in our case) in the midst of an emergency when no other family member is suitable to care for the children. And, yes, some do indeed do it for the money. Depending on the ages of the children, the number you take, and so forth, one can come out ahead financially.
But no matter what the reason is that someone decides to be a foster parent, they all have one thing in common. If the burden is too much, or if the children are too much for them to handle, or if they just tire of the children, they can call the agency and the children will be placed with another family. In other words, the family fostering the children can simply send them back.
Most Arminians think of God as being a foster parent, rather than being the adoptive Father that He is. If we are smart enough (so the thinking goes) to take advantage of the opportunity that God has placed before us, and our “free” will makes the right decision, then God will gladly adopt us into His family. But, if we act up too much, or we get on His nerves one too many times, then He will just as quickly send us back to our old master, Satan. One Arminian author, writing on the Synod of Dordt, said the following:
True believers can fall from true faith and can fall into such sins as cannot be consistent with true and justifying faith; not only is it possible for this to happen, but it even happens frequently. True believers are able to fall through their own fault into shameful and atrocious deeds, to persevere and to die in them; and therefore finally to fall and to perish. (Peter Y. DeJong, Crisis in the Reformed Churches: Essays in Commemoration of the Great Synod of Dordt, 1618-1619, 220ff).
In other words, we are foster children who can bug our Foster Father to the point He pushes us out the door. To the Arminian, when we become children of God, it is only a probationary relationship. At any point in time, God may, in His (supposed) capriciousness, end the relationship. “Yes, you have believed, and according to My word I have given you the right to be My child (John 1:12). But at this point I just don’t think this is working out. So I think it’s best if we just part ways. Sorry.” Continue reading
One of the hallmarks of reformed theology is captured in the cry of Sola Scriptura! We recall from 2 Peter 1:3 that the Lord has given us all we need for life and godliness – and this applies no less to life in the local church than to the individual Christian. As we consider the various way local churches deploy the office of deacon, it is painfully apparent that many of us have lost sight of the completeness of the wisdom our Lord has provided us and the reason for it – that how we serve Him and one another would be to the glory of His name and the good of His people.
The Scriptures are clear in describing two distinct offices (by this I mean positions with defined responsibilities) within the local church: elder/overseer/pastor and deacon are identified and qualified in 1 Tim 3. The men who serve in these offices are co-laborers, with distinctly different roles within the church. The account in Acts 6 gives a clear delineation between the two offices (with the Apostles as the spiritual shepherds at this time, prior to New Covenant elders), showing the service aspect of deacon ministry contrasted with the ministry of the word and prayer.
Read the rest of the article here.
If you have been reading my articles lately, you have probably noticed a very consistent theme, that being that Christians are commanded to share the gospel with the lost. I have been writing these articles for the very purpose of awakening the church to the desperate need in our world for the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ to be preached. It has been my sincere hope and prayer that these articles may have caused even a small number of Christians to stop and evaluate whether they have been obedient to the command of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If you are one that has realized he or she has not been doing so, but realize you need to be, you may be asking, “What do I do now? Just how do I go about doing this?” It is my hope and prayer that over the next few articles I can answer these questions and help equip you to biblically share the great and glorious message that Jesus Christ came to save sinners. Today, there are three things I want to encourage you to do as you go about preparing yourself to evangelize the lost.
First and foremost, before we ever wade out into the world to share the gospel, we need to be about the business of praying to God. A Christian must pray that God would give him wisdom, boldness and an unquenching thirst to preach the gospel to the lost. Christians must pray for humility, confessing their sins and repenting of them, and praying that they would not seek their own recognition and glory. Rather, Christians should pray that they would seek only to glorify the Lord by preaching His truth, not seeking to persuade with our own vain philosophies, but by speaking His revealed Word. Christians must pray for the Lord to break through the hardened, stony hearts of sinners and that He would reveal their need for Christ as their Savior. That He would cause the scales to fall from the eyes of the lost and cause them to see Christ in all His glory. Christians should also pray for steadfastness, an unwavering desire to preach the true gospel, no matter the opposition, or even persecution, that they may face. We must pray that we never become weary in doing good even when the world seeks to shut us up, when our friends and family tell us to stop being “so preachy” and even when our local churches refuse to support us because we are “judgmental.” We must pray that we would never stop sharing the gospel because we seek to please God alone and desire to bring a lost and dying world to Him. Prayer is one of our most potent and valuable weapons because it causes us to come to the throne of grace, seeking the power and equipping of our sovereign Lord. Never seek to accomplish the task of evangelism under your own “power.” Rather seek the power of God Himself to do the work.
Secondly, Christians need to become thoroughly equipped in the study of the scriptures. Human wisdom and philosophy can accomplish precious little when it comes to proclamation of the gospel. Remember that those who are lost are slaves to sin and are spiritually dead. Our words alone will never penetrate the rocky soil of an unregenerate heart. Only the Words of God Himself can break up that stone and make the heart into fertile soil. Therefore, we must be diligent to study the Bible daily, but not just to find scriptures that bolster our arguments. Such study accomplishes little because we are not seeking the actual context and application of God’s Word. If we fail to discern the true meaning of a passage, we may end up ripping scriptures out of context and doing damage to the message itself. Rather, we should study that we might grow in all wisdom and understanding. We should study so that our lives are so impacted by the Word, that every aspect of how we live changes to reflect the image of our Savior. In doing so, not only will we gain the words necessary to share with the lost, we will actually demonstrate that we believe them because our lives will reflect it. All the objections and obstacles that man can offer against God find their demise in the very words of our Lord. Study, memorize and learn to apply all of the scriptures on a daily basis.
Third, remember that you were once a lost and condemned sinner too. Remember that you had sinned against the very Creator who gave you life and breath through your wicked works. Remember that you had broken His laws, that you had been a liar, a thief, an idolator, a blashpember, one who lusted and fornicated, who harbored unjust anger in your heart, one who had sought only to please himself above all others. That in your sinned darkened stated, had you died and stood before God, who is perfectly righteous and holy, you would have been judged guilty and rightly condemned to an eternity it Hell. Yet, while you were still a sinner, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for you on the cross. That Christ lived the life of perfect obedience to the law that you could not. That He willingly went to the cross to suffer a brutal and humiliating death, the one that you deserved. That three days later, He rose again, defeating death and giving you a promise of eternal life. Remember that one day, God sent someone to you to share this glorious message of salvation. That He opened your eyes and softened your heart. That God miraculously granted you repentance and faith and caused you to be born again. And as you remember these things, glorify the Lord through worship and praise. Remember that you were once dead and He made you alive. Rejoice that God took an unworthy sinner like you (and me) and adopted you as His child. Then, in your praise and adoration of Him, seek to obey His command to preach this glorious message to others.
By equipping ourselves in these three areas – prayer, study and worship – we prepare ourselves for the spiritual warfare of saving souls. We are equipped with God’s power rather than our own and we are using His weapons in this battle. The preaching of the gospel is not an effort to improve lives, change minds or rescue the culture. The preaching of the gospel is two things: first, it is the glorification of our great God and Savior; second, it is a rescue mission to save souls on a path to Hell. Therefore, we dare not treat this lightly. Let us be fully prepared, with all God has to offer us, before we step foot onto the battlefied.
In my next article, I intend to speak on the biblical presentation of the gospel and to point out the errors of modern evangelical “evangelism.”
This last Sunday on Cross Encounters Radio, Tony Miano and I shared a recent sermon he preached in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, entitled “Don’t Give Up on Society.” The main points of the message are: 1) Christians must remember who they were before they came to faith in Christ; 2) Christians must remember who they are in Christ; and 3) Christians must remember what God has commanded them to do. This was a powerful sermon that I believe Christians should take the time to listen to.