Evangelism – what it is NOT

I recently began a short, 3-part series on evangelism. Week 1 is what evangelism is not, week 2 is a look at biblical evangelism, and week 3 is a look at the biblical gospel.evangelism

These are the points in lesson one on evangelism – what it is NOT:

Evangelism is not inviting people to church nor is giving your testimony of how the Lord saved you.

Evangelism is not telling people about your church or pastor nor is it providing food and shelter to those in need.

Evangelism is not praying for people nor is it leading them to pray to receive Christ.

Evangelism is not telling people they are sinners nor is it pressing the “10 Commandments” on them.

Evangelism is not telling people Jesus loves them nor is it telling them God has a plan for their lives.

Evangelism is not befriending lost people in hopes they will see Jesus in you nor is it telling them to ask Jesus into their hearts.

Evangelism is not 4 spiritual laws nor is it presenting evidence that demands a verdict.

Most Baptist would have my head on a pole for this.
You can listen to that message here if you wish. There’s much more than just these points in the message.
Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 2c) – Eternal Fire

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 2c) – Eternal Fire

I was recently told that I have not made any coherent arguments in my previous articles and podcast, and that my position against conditionalism (conditional immortality) was hard to follow. Here are some points to chew on, plain and simple (although what I am about to say will not be an exhaustive argument).

If the fire is unquenchable in that it can’t be “put out” as conditionalists say, and that it will not be put out until the work is finished. Then, when the work is finished, and the wicked are annihilated, will the fire be done doing its work? In other words, will it no longer burn? If a conditionalists says yes, that it will no longer burn when it has finished its work, then the fire must not be eternal. It would follow, then, that it either does die out, or it goes away somehow. So making the distinction between put out vs die out is unnecessary and linguisitically deceptive. Furthermore, in Matthew 25, the fire is described as being in and of itself eternal and is not exactly equivocal in nature to the fire coming down from God (Sodom), nor indicative of exclusively being God’s glory or holy presence somehow. Such attempts are trying to explain away the obvious. It is a categorically different fire. It is the fire of God’s eternal wrath. It is a fire of judgment that is permanent and perpetual. If you have a wrathful fire burning against sinners, which is the purpose of the fire, and the fire is supposed to be forever burning, how do you have a fiery wrath burning against an enemy that will eventually no longer be there? Some conditionalist will retort that the fire can be in and of itself eternal, but those that are in it are not (and they say I am proposing some kind of “eternal fuel” theory when I am not). But that still doesn’t solve the problem. Because the fire is still indicative of God’s wrath against sinners. So why will His wrathful anger still burn? If the people are consumed, the fire should cease. But it will not.

But also, another thing that is pointed out by Conditionalists is that the worm will not die. They make a distinction to say that the Bible doesn’t say it will “never” die (although linguistically there is proof that it implies that), but simply that it does “not” die. In other words, it will not die until it is done doing the work that it was set out to do, just as the the Rethinking Hell ministry has affirmed many times. The worm’s purpose is eating the corpses of the dead bodies that they say Isaiah 66 illustrates. So if the fire and worm exist to accomplish what it was meant to accomplish, what happens when the worm dies? Wouldn’t the fire die out as well since both are an illustration of God’s judgment? That is what the contributors at Rethinking Hell are implying. And if the fire stops too, why does Matthew describe the fire as eternal?

What you have here is a huge inconsistency that basically makes the future punishment of unquenchable, eternal fire as Jesus explains it in the New Testament being a complete equivalent to the nature of the Old Testament fire that destroys its adversaries (which eventually went out when the work was finished). Even though Jesus used Old Testament language to describe God’s wrath and burning judgment against wicked, Jesus further expounds upon the nature of the future judgment in the New Testament. In Matthew 25’s case, it is eternal. And, it is explaining what happens after you die. Not the first time you die like in many Scriptures used to substantiate annihilationism.  So either the fire is truly temporal and not eternal, or the worms and fire are eternal thus making the punishment eternal. It’s not hard to understand. But of course, Jude 7 is used, again, to substantiate their claim that the fire can be eternal. But this is categorical and semantical mistake. I will exegetic Jude 7 for you all in the future, but just know this for now. The eternal fire spoken of by Jude 7 is teaching us that the wicked are suffering NOW in torment.

But let’s add Jude into the mix for a second. If we use Jude 7 to interpret how the eternal fire can still be eternal because it is God’s glory, or is coming from God’s holy presence down from heaven as some conditionalists say, and it doesn’t have to burn forever, then why does Matthew’s grammatical construction (see part 2a-b) make eternal fire categorically different from other fires? Also, Matthew refers to the location of those thrown into eternal fire as a separate “place” 6 times in his writings (Mathew 8:12; 13:42; 13:50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30), “prepared” for Satan and his angels, where there is outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth. Keep this in mind that this place is still a place of wrath, anger, fire, judgment. If conditionalist wish to make the fire that Matthew describes like that of Sodom, which they wrongly assume Jude means – a fire that comes down from God upon Sodom and Gomorrah and burns for a period of time only to kill and annihilate – if God already dished out the punishment with eternal fire, then why is He resurrecting them to do the same thing again? In other words, He already “annihilated” them with “eternal fire” in Sodom. That was their punishment, right?  I’ve asked this question before in Part 3 of this series. And if this is the case, why would Jesus say that it would be better for Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt 10:14-15; 11:22-24) on the day of judgement than for those that reject the gospel if the same kind of death-by-fire (or should we say annihilation-by-fire) punishment is coming? It doesn’t add up. Oh, and by the way. The example in 2 Peter 2:6 is not describing annihilation after death, but is illustrating that God will preserve the righteous and judge the wicked. Not that Sodom serves as a direct parallel describing annihilation. Context is key.

Lastly, the rebuttal and arguments to make the eternal fire in Matthew something other than an instrument of wrath located in a place that is categorically different is plain ludicrous. The fact that this fire will never go out, be put out, or die out (whichever wording you choose) implies that God’s wrath will abide there forever. And if God’s wrath abides there forever, on whom is it abiding against when the wicked will sooner or later be annihilated? This isn’t eternal fuel. This is eternal punishment. The fire existed prior to them begin thrown in their because it is a place “prepared” and a place that endures forever for those that are not born again. I wish I could be more plain, but I’m not sure how. If this isn’t good enough for conditionalists I’m not sure what is. Nevertheless, I will continue to write and extend an open invitation for conditionalists to come on a podcast with me to discuss what they believe and why. So far, they have declined for emotional reasons.

Tune in to part 4 coming within the next week about how the Church Father, Irenaeus, believed some of the very same things about the punishment and fire enduring eternally, even though the ministry of Rethinking Hell take him out of context.

-Until we go home

Love Mercy

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8).

But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless (Matthew 12:7).

A while back, I came to the conclusion that I would rather err on the side of mercy when relating to others. I’m not talking about being soft on sin. But I am talking about walking graciously toward others who may not be at the same place in their walk with the Lord as you or I may be. And, if a brother or sister is caught in sin, learning how to “restore such a one in the spirit of meekness” (Gal. 6:1).

When I look at others who are covered with the scars of bad decisions they have made, I do not lose sight of the fact that there but for the grace of God go I. God has spared me from a lot in life but that is a testimony to His goodness, not mine.

mercifulgod

Luke 6:36 tells us:

Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

Matthew 5:7 says:

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

I have received so much mercy in my life. How could I be so heartless as to not show mercy in return?

Dictionary.com defines “mercy” as:

1. compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence:
2. the disposition to be compassionate or forbearing:
3. the discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment, especially to send to prison rather than invoke the death penalty:
4. an act of kindness, compassion, or favor:
5. something that gives evidence of divine favor; blessing.
I want to be that person that doesn’t hesitate to put an arm around a struggling sinner who is broken instead of the one who says (even in the heart), “If you just hadn’t done that stupid thing, you wouldn’t be in this predicament.”
 
There are times when pious, religious people may need a firm rebuke but only if it can be done in humility with the purpose of the sinner coming to repentance and being restored. But there are other times that we must help to lift up the broken so they can find that hope that will lift them out of the pit they find themselves in.
Several times in the Gospels, we read that “Jesus had compassion.” We need to follow His example. Won’t you show mercy to someone today?

The Sufficiency of Christ

Brian Hedges’ book, Christ All Sufficient, an Exposition of Colossians, is a welcomed book in 9781633421219any Christian’s library. It is widely recognized that Colossians is perhaps the most Christocentric book in the Bible; every preacher loves to preach from this text. Hedges’ book adds a rich tapestry of theology and doctrine to our understanding of this epistle that will cause the reader to rejoice and be in awe of his Savior.

Ten concise chapters bring out various themes from this letter in a consistent focus on our main goal in life – to glorify our God and King. Our author covers the gospel from three perspectives – the power of the gospel, the ministry of the gospel, and the mission of the gospel; all it very well presented and founded on the epistle being examined.

What thrills my soul the most and what ought to stir any saint to desire a deeper walk with Christ is the study of the nature and work of the Lord Jesus. In his chapter titled The Supremacy of Christ, Hedges reminds us that Jesus is “not only reveals to us God’s character and nature, he also perfectly bears the imago Dei as the Adam. He shows us what it means to be truly human.” (page 52) Since the first Adam, each of us has born the image of God in a twisted, marred manner as we were marked by sin from conception and every thought that followed. Jesus is the perfect image and He will be among us on the new earth. Hedges also reminds us of Jesus’ role in creation and in holding things together, as all things were created by Him and for Him. “The implications of this for believers is astounding … believers should never live in fear …” (page 54)

As Col 1:20 tells us Christ brings peace with the Father, our author rightly tells us “Peace is more than just a cease-fire in the conflict between God and humanity: it is the restoration of cosmic and relational harmony under the supreme lordship of Jesus Christ across all domains of existence.” (pages 57 & 58) There is nothing to fear in this life where all they can do is kill the body. Our refuge, our security is eternal and is more secure than anything all the armies of this age could provide.

In chapter V on the Sufficiency of Christ, we are encouraged to walk in obedience to our Lord with thanksgiving. We are complete in Christ, united with Him who is the fullness of God. Paul wrote that the ordinances against us were nailed to the His cross, a vivid word picture that communicates the imputation of sin onto Jesus. Horatio Spafford put this in lyrics that Hedges quotes and every Christian ought to love:

My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part, but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Addressing Col 2:15, Hedges tells us, “Paul here alludes to the victory parade following a Roman victory, an image also appearing in 2 Corinthians 2:14.” (page 86) and follows up with “The powers of darkness thus have no claim and can pose no threat to those who are in Christ.” (page 87” I think our author was channeling Martin Luther:

And though this world, with devils filled,

Should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph through us.

The Prince of Darkness grim,

We tremble not for him.

His rage we can endure,

For lo, his doom is sure.

One little word shall fell him.

That one word, of course, is the person of Christ – none other. Confidence in Him, the one in whom there is salvation; that is what this book builds up. Colossians is God’s Word about the person and work of God’s Son. Brian Hedges’ book gives the reader an excellent look into some of the deeper, richer meanings of what the Spirit spoke through the apostle.

Just to Clarify

Just to clarify if there are any questions, Defending Contending will NOT endorse any candidate in this election. Both candidates hold positions that defy the laws of God. This is not about the economy, Benghazi, lies, treason, their lack of theology, or anything apart from following the Scriptures when it comes to making decisions that will impact our lives as we stand before God.

 

Two Kingdoms

It saddens me to see so many Christians get wrapped up in politics. We have virtually no sense of history (the early days of what used to 26822be a representative republic were far wilder than the current election cycle) and seem to have lost sight of the two kingdoms in play. Augustine likened them to Two Cities.

The Bible is clear – God created three units of government for this age: the family, the state, and the church. We do not read of any of the apostles nor the Lord trying to overthrow the Roman government, although that is the charge brought against Jesus by the Jewish leaders.

We are not selecting a theologian-in-chief this year. We have not had a solid Christian man in the White House in the past 100 years; all of them have put politics above Truth for the most part. We play into the hands of the world when we try make this country into the mold we imagine for it. But no matter how much we desire a secure temporal future under a God-fearing government, that is not where our security lies.

The best thing for this country would be political leaders who cling to the Constitution, just as the best thing for our local churches are men who cling to the Scripture.

The political machinery in D.C. all works together to consolidate power at the national level (the Whig Party lives in the policies of both current parties). No matter if your favorite President was Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan, GW Bush, or Bill Clinton (all professing Christians) – none of those men were able to put this country on the foundation of Scripture. That is not the job of the President.

If your view is that you must vote for a truly godly person as President, how is your position different from the Jews who clamored for a king like the pagan nations had, discontent with having YHWH as their King?

A President who will work against the status-quo and try to push the national government back to it charter document will do this country good, no matter what you or I think of his theology.

Dump Them Both

I have lived almost half a century. Being both a US citizen and a British subject, I can say that I have seen my share of politics. I have seen the games, heard the lies, and watched the vitriol fly. This current election in the USA must be the worse I have ever seen. We are a laughingstock among the nations of the world, many of whom have no fear of us as a nation. More importantly, they have no respect for us because our leaders (and potential wanna-be leaders) have no respect for the laws of this land.

America used to be a very great nation. We are the nation that was silent for the first 3 years of The Great War, also known as World War I. Finally joining in, the men of this nation answered the call to arms and routed the enemies of freedom. That was ALL that was fought for.

The same thing occurred in World War II when the greatest generation of Americans who have ever lived rose up and resoundingly thrashed the enemies of freedom on two fronts (Europe and Asia). We asked for nothing, but gave much. After all was said and done, we sent more of men and women to former war fronts and America rebuilt those nations one brick at a time. We even paid for it with grants, many of which have still not been repaid.

The men and women who gave their lives in the theaters of war followed their orders so that we might have the freedoms we enjoy today.

Sadly, I never thought, and I am sure our Founding Fathers, nor those veterans of war from World War II on, could have thought or imagined that our nation would be allowed to flounder like a fish out of water. To think that the choices for President and Commander-in-Chief is down to the vulgar, trash-talking, debauched candidate on one side and a feminist, God-hating, traitor on the other side is just enough to make anybody with half an ounce of common sense want to vomit – violently!

However, there is something even worse than what we are seeing today. Our nation has become a nation that panders to evil. It calls good to be evil, and evil to be good. Our nation has become a culture that thinks it is entitled. It thinks it is entitled to disrespect the American flag while being paid millions of dollars. Sadly, most of the people who complain about this are the same ones who will still pay hundreds of dollars at sporting events every single week and thus support and endorse what is taking place.

Our society believes that is must speak from the pocketbook because after all, “it’s about the economy, stupid!” When will we ever learn? Obviously, it is true that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This once great nation is repeating history. History shows that Rome was NOT destroyed by her enemies. She was destroyed from within. Rome thought she was entitled to what she had. Ultimately, she was destroyed because she forgot the reason she existed was because of God and God alone.

Not only is our society at large a problem, but even the evangelical church is a problem. We have people fighting back and forth across the aisles of Facebook, Twitter, and even church itself trying to decide why and which of the lesser of two great, monstrous evils to vote for!

Seriously?? Let’s put this into perspective.

Let’s assume in a few years that the choice is down to a president who promises that he or she will only kill 10 Christians per day versus a president who promises that he or she will only kill just one (1) Christian per day. Are our only choices really to vote for the lesser of these two evils? The cries are growing louder and I can hear some saying, “Oh, that would never happen!”

May I remind you that we can easily substitute the word “Christian” in the above sentence and replace it with “baby” or “infant.” We end up with the same solution. We soothe our conscience by declaring that we are only voting for the president who “promises to only kill just one (1) baby a day” on his watch instead of standing for what is right.

You can argue all you want while using the illustrations of Joseph being second in command in Egypt, and Daniel being third in command in all of Babylon. Those two men were NOT voted in to their office. They were placed strategically, specifically, and sovereignly in those places of power by none other than God for a specific purpose.

The Christians of Rome had no option to “vote” for the lesser of two evil Caesars. They would NEVER have been told by the apostles to “vote your conscience” or “vote for the lesser of two evils and hope for the best.” Utter ridiculousness! They were commanded to obey the laws of the land, to remember who was in control, to pray for the leaders of the land, to watch for the Lord’s return, and to pray without ceasing.

Today, we have many who are not only self-acclaimed evangelicals, but even claim that they believe in the sovereign hand of God. They then turn around and think that the entire picture puzzle rests upon their feeble shoulders of clay. They declare that God is in control, but refuse to believe Psalm 2 that reminds us that God sits in the heavens and LAUGHS at the wicked. The wicked say, “Let us break their bands asunder” but God holds them in derision.

Today, our churches rarely pray and are certainly not watching and hoping for the return of the Lord. Our churches are more concerned about keeping the peace between rival factions in the congregation instead of saying, “Thus says the Lord…the wicked shall not prosper!”

In the meantime, having cast aside the belief in the sovereignty of God, we have become more and more pragmatic in our belief system. We justify the killing of only one baby a day because “maybe God will take this candidate out of the picture after he becomes president so that we can be blessed with the second person in charge” and America will truly become a Christian nation again. Our pastors and churches have accepted the handouts of the government and thus have been lulled into silence for the sake of a few dollars saved on church supplies at the local office supply store.

I would be a fool to encourage our readers to follow their heart. Your heart and mine cannot be trusted. Jeremiah 17:9 makes this very clear, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Both candidates are simply two sides of the same coin. They both endorse the murder of helpless babies and support the abomination of the homosexual movement. Evil is still evil and will always be evil. Please spare me the details of how “a vote thrown away is a vote for ______” or “if you don’t vote, you are not obeying your civic duty and thus in sin!”

No, no, no, and NO!!!!!!

I want to hear more pastors, Bible teachers, and evangelists crying out to God like Nehemiah to forgive their sins, the sins of their homes, and the sins of this nation. I want to hear more who will be willing, even as a top official, to pray for what is right and true, even if it means that you get thrown to the lions. I want to hear more cry for mercy for the tragedy that has befallen this nation, and plead to God asking, “How long, O Lord, will the wicked prosper?”

The truth is that if those who claimed the name of Christ were willing to cease being pragmatic in their approach to life and realize that the Scriptures are good for all that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), then we would become a voice crying in the wilderness, “Make straight your paths for the King is coming.”

With all the arguments that have been bandied about as to who we should or should not vote for, I am truly appalled at the lack of integrity that is seen in every quarter. I am appalled at the emotions that are in play instead of the Scriptures. I am appalled at the reality that many who say they love the Lord and believe He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords live as though the rise and fall of America depends on them casting a vote for the lesser of two evils!

I have no right to tell you to vote for either candidate. Americans, by the law of the land, have been given the liberty and the choice to make as to what they will do in this election and every election after this.

Those who claim the name of Christ though have a much higher calling. We are not called to obey our emotions. We are not called to vote with our pocketbooks. We are called to be ambassadors of the King of Kings, and I have to wonder how many in the world look on us with disdain because we have fallen hard and fast away from the truths we claim to hold dear.

As a true believer in the sovereignty of God and the dictates of Scripture, I personally cannot and will not vote for either candidate. I will not violate my conscience in order to pacify my emotions. Finally, I choose not to vote ultimately because to do so means that I must practice situational ethics in order to justify either choice.

Like Joshua of old said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” We will wake up on November 6th giving thanks that we are one day closer to the return of the Lord. We will be able to sleep well at night knowing that we did not approve of one single candidate who stands daily to mock the Most High God. We will wake up knowing that no matter who will be the next president that our God still reigns and He ALONE puts up one and puts down another.

He alone can make our next Nebuchadnezzar to eat grass like a cow until he lifts up his eyes and praises the Most High God, and He alone can choose to feed the next Herod literally to the worms!

In conclusion, our readers have choices to make as well. My prayer is that each of you will pray about how you can make the right decisions that are in line with the Word of God. There should be and can be no other rule by which you decide your paths. Ultimately, we will each give account before God for the decision we choose to make, but we will not have the liberty to say that we loved what God hates because it was the better of all the other options.