Salvation is of the Lord!

Authentic Evangelism and Its Counterfeit

Of all the charges we have been given by God, is there any more serious and important than the gospel? If we rightly believe that reconciliation of sinners with holy God is the most vital part of life, then the role given us by God in His grand redemptive plan must be worthy of our close attention. It is call to properly understanding and proclaiming that gospel our author strives to impress upon the reader in this fine book.

Seiver’s book is presented in 3 parts, focusing on the necessity of evangelism, the biblical pattern for evangelism, and the theological foundation for evangelism – which takes up the largest space in this book. This reflects what should be common knowledge among the children of God – our practice in all things related to our faith is informed and formed by what we think of ourselves and of God; our theology. This is why, for example, the first 11 chapters of Romans is a seminary in theology and the last 5 are how it works out in the lives of individuals and the local church.

One statement from the introduction that sticks out – the gospel “is not even primarily about sinners going to heaven when they die. It is about the manifestation of God’s glory in the contrivance and execution of the plan of redemption.” Being reconciled to God, being with Him in a state of being unable to sin, showing forth the glorious saving grace found only in Christ Jesus – that is the great prize. Since the Bible tells us (Mark 4 – parable of the seeds) that good soil will produce much fruit, and that the seed is the Word of God, we conclude two things that Randy puts before us: The Gospel is God’s message, not ours; and the fruit produced by our message will reflect its source. A false gospel will produce false converts – God promises to attend the proclamation of His Word, not the “wisdom of man”.

Part 1 defines Calvinism, Arminianism, and these views affect evangelism; about which he says, “We can define evangelism as the proclamation of the good news that God has universally published his terms of peace … this proffered pardon is not based in any sense on the sinner’s willingness to return to God or on his believing acceptance of the terms of peace. Pardon is based solely on Jesus’ redemptive accomplishments on the sinner’s behalf.” Our author bids us cast aside our traditions and concepts and jargon that is not found in the Bible; this should be solid ground but I have been amazed at how few people agree with the idea or with working it out to align with Scripture. This will be the rub for many who read this book. I would encourage anyone interested in the idea of biblical evangelism to take and read.

Bottom line from part 1: “People become effective evangelists when they are so filled with the knowledge of God’s glory and of his truth that they simply cannot be quiet.” That is what the Bible records and that is very good counsel.

Part 2 opens with this jewel: “Whenever we search for a biblical pattern for any aspect of the church’s life and ministry we need to understand that such a pattern is established in the didactic passages of the New Testament Scriptures, not in the historical and hortatory passages.” I dare say that many of the errors so prevalent in church life today are the result of normalizing narratives.  Combine that with the long ending of Mark and you have people handling snakes and drinking poison as if commanded to do so by God to demonstrate faith in Him.  As you read the chapters in this part, your thoughts of evangelism will likely be shaken, as many of the practices in our churches are not found in the Bible, but are established only as traditions of men.  Randy sums much of this section up with this: “the message preached to the unconverted included no call for them to believe that Jesus died for them. It simply demands that sinners leave their sin and their wicked and misguided thoughts about God and return to his way. It assures them that when they account God to be faithful to keep his promise, he will pardon them in Jesus’ name (by his authority and through his merit).”

Part 3 is the longest, focused on the proper theology behind evangelism. He spends time presenting a biblical view of God and tells us, “It is never right to conclude that God is unfair [unrighteous] because he did not act in a way that meets our standard of right and wrong.” It is OK for the Christian to admit he doesn’t understand something; it is flat out wrong to say something clearly taught as God’s will is not right. We are reminded of our main goal in life – the glorify our God, and our author highlights how ur gospel proclamation fits into this: “We preach the gospel because it is in line with God’s great purpose—that is, to make his glory known in the earth.” What can be more glorious than the displayed mercy of holy God as He redeems sinners and makes them fit for His house? If some do not hear our message, we do not lose heart – our goal is to be pleasing to our Savior. He bids us to sow the seed He has given to us, not to presume to know or determine the nature of the soil into which we sow.

This section of the book covers other topics, such as the authority of Scripture, the nature and purpose of salvation, God’s eternal purpose, repentance and faith, and conferring assurance.

You are likely to disagree with some of Mr. Seiver’s conclusions or the details of this or that. But unless you want to sit in judgment on God, you will find yourself in vigorous agreement with his over-arching thrust – salvation is of the Lord!

You can buy this book here.

Devotional with Charles Spurgeon

February 2

“Without the shedding of blood is no remission.” — Heb 9:22

This is the voice of unalterable truth. In none of the Jewish ceremonies were sins, even typically, removed without blood-shedding. In no case, by no means can sin be pardoned without atonement. It is clear, then, that there is no hope for me out of Christ; for there is no other blood-shedding which is worth a thought as an atonement for sin.

Am I, then, believing in him? Is the blood of his atonement truly applied to my soul? All men are on a level as to their need of him. If we be never so moral, generous, amiable, or patriotic, the rule will not be altered to make an exception for us. Sin will yield to nothing less potent than the blood of him whom God hath set forth as a propitiation. What a blessing that there is the one way of pardon! Why should we seek another?

bloodatonement

Persons of merely formal religion cannot understand how we can rejoice that all our sins are forgiven us for Christ’s sake. Their works, and prayers, and ceremonies, give them very poor comfort; and well may they be uneasy, for they are neglecting the one great salvation, and endeavouring to get remission without blood.

My soul, sit down, and behold the justice of God as bound to punish sin; see that punishment all executed upon thy Lord Jesus, and fall down in humble joy, and kiss the dear feet of him whose blood has made atonement for thee. It is in vain when conscience is aroused to fly to feelings and evidences for comfort: this is a habit which we learned in the Egypt of our legal bondage. The only restorative for a guilty conscience is a sight of Jesus suffering on the cross. “The blood is the life thereof,” says the Levitical law, and let us rest assured that it is the life of faith and joy and every other holy grace.

“Oh! how sweet to view the flowing
Of my Saviour’s precious blood;
With divine assurance knowing
He has made my peace with God.”

Growing Old With Grace

When I was young, old age never bothered me. In fact, I would be hard pressed to even remember a time when I wondered for a fleeting moment what it would be like to grow old. It was other people that grew old – like grandparents. However, it is amazing what almost five decades will do to one’s perspective.

Yesterday, I was reminded again of the passing of years as someone I really did not know passed away and went to be with the Lord they loved. This individual was quite elderly and known to others I love. This brother in Christ had spent years sharing and teaching the Word of God. Despite being racked at times with pain, the main diseases that was eating him away was not what ultimately took him from this life of toil and pain. He closed his eyes in sleep as his heart gave out and woke up in a place where he would never sleep or be in pain again.

When I heard the news, I was reminded again that time is creeping up on us and flies back so quickly. James put it so succinctly when he said in James 4:14, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

vapor

As I write this, it is a special day for another reason. Forty-four years ago today, in the cold, wind-swept, bone-chilling landscape of the country of Iceland, a healthy young boy was born. Almost from the first day my brother was brought home from the hospital, he was happy. He was the life of the party and often the clown. Yes, we had our ups and downs, but John David made the most of whatever oppositions got in his way.

In late 1995, John had just left the USAF with an honorable discharge and was making a home for himself in North Carolina. He had found a body of believers that he dearly loved and he had spent time with the men on a retreat where his heart was stirred to be more like the Lord Jesus Christ.

However, all of that changed when he went to work one cold November morning. I received a call that I should meet at the hospital. Arriving, I found out that my brother, who was less than 5 years younger than me had passed away at the young age of 22. He had acquired an infection in his heart and when his heart exploded, he was gone before he hit the floor.

That was 21 years ago. There are still times the pain and loneliness of not hearing his voice or the endless jokes is emotionally difficult. Even back then, we spoke of him lovingly at the funeral and afterwards, but old age was still a long ways off. I didn’t really dwell on the reality that it was still going to come for all who are left to face the world.

Far from this maddening world, my brother no longer has to walk the dark paths of these Shadowlands, as C.S. Lewis called them. John’s path led him to a promotion that is far better than anything he could have experienced in this life. In fact, the moment he crossed from death into life, the joys he would have known would have been crowned by meeting the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. That is not something that any true believer would want to take away from another believer. Yes, we miss those who have gone before us, and we can hope that others will miss us when it comes time for us to depart this life.

However, until it is time for us to close our eyes to sin, death, and the grave, we must focus on living our lives in such a way that we will hear, “Well done, you are a good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of the Lord!” We have no reason to fear the door of death. For the believer, the door is only the opening to the wonders of what eternity holds and the half can never be told this side of heaven.

To me, this world is not really my home. I grow tired of the pain and the struggles that assail the flesh and the heart. If I should be left another 10, 20, or 30 years, I struggle to accept that more illnesses and heartache may well be my lot in life as it has been for much of my life.

inheaven

Each year that passes, I strangely find that growing old is something that did not really sneak up on me. Each year was filled with memories that resonate in my mind and heart. Each memory, whether good or bad or indifferent or sad or happy, was created as I lived the path that God had ordained for me to walk. One day, those memories may be forgotten as I get even older, but it will not diminish what I have been allowed to do by a gracious God who has been more merciful and gracious to me than I have or will ever deserve.

We live from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, month to month, and year to year. The time is precious and should be spent without regrets before the Lord. I do not fear the age I have become, but I welcome it because it puts me closer to the day when I will see the saints who have gone before me. I will see my grandparents, my brother, and friends who loved the Lord as well.

Growing older does have both advantages and disadvantages, but knowing what comes next makes the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. As believers, we are called to endure this race. Whether we are called to go at a young age or at an elderly age, our race is being encouraged on the sidelines of heaven by the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. Therefore, it behooves us to run the race while looking to Jesus Christ alone!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1, 2

A Christian’s Duty Through The Heralds of Ancient Greece

A Christian’s Duty Through The Heralds of Ancient Greece

Whether a elder in the pulpit, a preacher on the street, or a believer seeking to be a faithful witness, we can all glean from this.

In Ancient Greece, heralds had a specific role in the culture with a specific reputation. It is that reputation that I am going to use as illustrative examples  concerning a believer’s/preacher’s duty to spread the gospel. Although we know that the Bible is sufficient for life and godliness, still, illustrations are a powerful tool to help nail the truths deeper into our mind and make plain what is simply less memorable to some. With that said, here are some points that will help us reaffirm our calling as ambassadors and heralds of the gospel. Once again, these points are purely illustrative, not expository. But they nevertheless communicate biblical truth.

  1. A herald was often called kerukes, which meant “herald.” In Ancient Greece, the name was often ascribed to a traditional family of priests thought to have descended from Hermes. However, it was used for anyone that was designated to carry a message.
    • The Bible declares that all Christians are now a royal priesthood and we are chosen to proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into light (2 Peter 2:9) 
    • Because Christ has saved us, we are now direct descendants of Him who has commissioned usto preach His gospel.
  2. A herald (kerukes) can also be associated with any kind of messenger (angeloi) or envoy 
(presbeis), although not operating in the same manner as a herald.
    • The Bible declares that we are ambassadors (presbeuo) for Christ, and that we are to implore mankind as though God was pleading with man through us (2 Cor. 5:20).
    •  Our ministry is angelic in practice. And though we are not, by nature, angels from heavenbringing the good news (evanggelizo) (Luke 2:10), nevertheless we are fellow servantswith the angels and considered family in the work of being a messenger (Rev. 22:8).
  3. Kerukes were designated in a city to be watchers for prearranged signals in the sky that
 communicated messages from considerable distances. The signals were communicated by
 flag during the day, or fire by night. Whatever the message, heralds were to
 interpret those signals and immediately declare them to the town.
    • As Christians, our eyes should always be in the Heavens, looking unto Jesus and His word (God’s prearranged communicated message) and immediatelydeclare them unto those who are in our town (Col. 1:27-29; Heb 1:2). 
  4. Heralds carried a staff with them called kerukeion which not only established their identity  and office, but it was also a visual reminder that they were under the care of the Greek messenger god Hermes. And just like Hermes, whenever they were seen with the rod in  hand, it signified that they were about to announce an official message.
    • We should always have with us our kerukeion – the Bible. This willserve as a visual reminder for others that we are underneath the authority and care of Jesus Christ our King. And this will assist in establishing our identity withHim as well as His authority. Whenever we carry this rod with us, it should signify toour hearers that we are about to announce an official message. 
  5. Hermes was commissioned by Zeus to be his messenger and in turn, Hermes commissioned others to be heralds.
    • Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, sent by the Father to declare this gospel in the world, and thosewho are true followers of Christ are commissioned by Him to declare it to others(Matt. 28:19). 
  6. Some families appointed kerukes because it was an inherited right. Other heralds were elected  and/or dispatched by a legislative assembly of leaders called boule.
    • As Christians, we are adopted into the family of Christ, and therefore possess theinherited right to herald the gospel into the world.
    • As the chosen of God, we are elected and dispatched as kerukes to preach the gospelto every creature. Although this should be something that a local church should support, equip, and encourage one another to do, this is not always the case. In this instance, we must remember that our authority to share the gospel comes from Christ first and foremost.
  7. Heralds were often chosen for their ability to carry their voice over noise and distance.
    • If we plan on preaching in the open air, a general principle is that we should speak to be heard. This requires skill and clarity on the part of the speaker so that every detail of the message is not muffled because of inability or negligence.
    • Stentor, a herald mentioned in Homer’s Iliad, was described as having a voice aspowerful as 50 men. He was the herald for the Greek forces during the Trojan War. Although it is not mandatory to have this kind of voice, we must still speak to be heard.
  8. In military contexts, kerukes would be in close proximity to the commander to carry forth orders. Furthermore, they were called upon to rally the troops together, and also were sent out to recover the dead bodies of those slain (specifically in war) and bring them back.
    •   If you are going to be an Evangelist of the gospel, we should always remain close to the Commander (Jesus) in order to carry forth orders that He has declared. It is a preacher’s duty not only to carry forth the orders of the Commander appointed over him, but also in rallying the troops to obey His orders. A good preacher will not only declare what Christcommands to His enemies, but also declare to the allied forces that they are to be in obedience to His commission!
    • 
Whether those dead in trespasses and sins or our brethren temporarily slain by sin, the herald is to bring back those slain and dead through the resurrection power of the gospel proclaimed. We are specifically sent out to recoverthese poor souls and bring them all back to God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  9. Heralds were not only used to convey information, but collect it.
    • We are not to be givers of information from our own will, but phonological reflectors of God’swill. We are to collect information and study God’s word so that we can clearly andzealously publish to the world that which we have already digested ourselves. Manuallabor on an empty stomach is not wise; neither is preaching the gospel without fillingup on His Word and Spirit. 
  10. Greek heralds were sent out to declare policy, demands, and decrees abroad. Also, they 
would announce warnings, or offers, to hostile cities or armies, as well as declare war itself.
 More often than not, kerukes were denied entry into warring cities as a sign of protest or 
insult.
    • We are to be faithful in declaring the policies, demands, and decrees of God to all.We are to preach the warnings of God as well as His offer of peace to the hostilecities of the world. It is necessary, as a part of our duties, to reveal that man isalready at war with God, and we must boldly stand before Satan’s Army to declare
 conditions of peace and judgment from the King.
    • More often than not, we will be denied entry into many places in order to declare ourmessage, but this should not deter us. Although done as sign of protest and insult against God, we are to be steadfast in delivering the message whenever possible (Luk 6:22).

As a final illustration, we will use a famous herald, Phidippides, as an example of a faithful messenger. According to myth, Phidippides ran 26 miles from the battle of Marathon to Athens to announce Greek victory in war. Depending on the source, the message was somewhere along the lines of “Joy to you, we have won” or “Rejoice, we have the victory.” It was after proclaiming this that he breathed his last breath and died.

As believers we have received the victory over sin, death, and hell. Christ has gone 
into the Most Holy place and atoned for our sins and has defeated the armies of 
darkness, making a public shame of them because of His sacrifice. Because this war 
is won, shouldn’t we also be running a spiritual marathon declaring “we have the 
victory?” Shouldn’t we be giving our very lives in order to publish this good news,
 even if it is the very last thing we say with our mouths? Phidippides, although myth, is a
 great example of dedication, swiftness, and perseverance in order to deliver a
message that literally cost him his life. Are willing to run in the steps of Phidippides 
for Christ? To go the extra mile or two or twenty-six? No matter how it must be
 done, let us be found faithfully preaching the glorious gospel until our LORD comes 
for His bride.

-Until we go home

In Moderation?

Over the past few months, I have not been able to get on Defending Contending that much for a variety of reasons. The main reason is because I have been very busy with work, working on a professional level exam in the evening, and trying to squeeze in time for family with what little bit of time I have left. Having said that, I wanted to take a few minutes to say that I appreciate those who have been able to contribute and who have commented.

Yet, with the responsibility of sharing with others comes another responsibility that I believe is even more important. This responsibility has been sadly lacking in some of the things that have been shared and I want to clarify a few points so we can move forward. The responsibility of which I speak is that, as true believers, we are called to reflect Jesus Christ in all that we say or do. Our position can be right, but if our disposition is wrong, then we are wrong. Being belligerent, obstinate, hateful, derogatory, or even caustic does not reflect who we are in Christ.

Hebrews 12:1 reminds us that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have walked the path before us. When I think of this passage, I cannot help but wonder what they would say to us if they could read our words or hear what we say to others who are true believers. As but one example, I wonder if they would wince when our words are written or designed to tear strips off of those who believe in salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone yet are not in total agreement with us on some point of doctrine that has nothing to do with our salvation.

grace3

It seems that on a regular basis, we can get sideways with others for a variety of reasons and in the process we forget that part of being in Christ is that we exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. This has not always been the case here at Defending Contending, and even I have had to back off and extend an apology to our readers and our commenters for not being gracious. Again, my position may well have been right, but my disposition only inspired others to dive for shelter instead of looking to Jesus Christ.

Too often it seems that we forget the passage in 1 Corinthians 3 where Paul reminded the believers of Corinth that we are not called to be followers of Paul, or Apollos, or Luther, or Calvin, or MacArthur, or Sproul, or Paul Washer, or fill-in-the-blank. When we put our eyes on mere men who are fallible and by no means 100% correct in every single area of their life, we will be disappointed. Not only will we be disappointed, but the world will have reason to wonder as to who really paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. They may well wonder why we spend more time trying to defend points of doctrine over acting, speaking, and listening in ways that are truly glorifying and Christ-honoring.

Recently, we have had posts that were meant to be words of encouragement only for the gloves to come off and comments began to spin out of control. The post was never intended to be anything more than apples of gold in pitchers of silver. The short post got hijacked and it became a stomping ground for people from different ends of the spectrum to parade how they felt. Several posts recently have been such that I cringe when I look back and read them and the comments. I wonder what in the world we are really doing or what we are attempting to do.

Finger-pointing does nothing profitable. Thus I felt this post was necessary to hopefully clear the air. First, let me reiterate that I am unashamedly, first and foremost, a Christ-follower. Second, I hold to the Bible as the inerrant and infallible word of God that is good for ALL that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Third, I do not have any desire to follow a mere man. Yes, I, myself, have posted comments or quote or even sermons from men like MacArthur, Washer, or Dr. Steve Lawson, but they are men just like me. Others quote Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Sproul, or whoever as though they are to be esteemed to the level of the apostle Paul.

Anybody that cares to take the time to read through more of this blog will know where I have stood for the more than 8 years I have written here at Defending Contending. I have no intention of backing down from defending truth or contending for the faith. Many of you already know that I do not use the term Calvinist to describe myself. Most would be hard pressed to tell you exactly where Mark Escalera stands, but I am willing to share if I am asked. I have no issues standing against false teaching or false teachers. What I do have an issue with is the attitudes that are portrayed at times that are not Christ-like.

likeChrist

I have almost shared enough for now, but I want to share just a couple more things. Not every reader, nor every person who comments, nor even every person who has been asked to contribute stands on the same ground theologically. While I disagree on various points with each contributor, I still have the final say on the blog and who I invite to write here.

I would kindly ask that each reader remember that ultimately, I am the one that is responsible for Defending Contending and that this is not, nor will it be, a forum for just anybody to come here and defend and contend for what everyone else believes. If a person comes here and desires to share, there are still rules that are not going to change.

If you come to DefCon just for the purpose of trying to change all of our minds on a particular area, then please feel free to start your own blog. We do not mind questions, nor do we mind disagreements. But, writing inflammatory comments or demanding to be heard on one side or another of a particular issue will not be tolerated. If you have a comment that is held in moderation, I do not need 1, 2, 5, or 10 more comments letting me know that your comment is in moderation. I have a busy life and it may not be answered for an hour, a day, or even 2 days.

As for those who write blog posts here at DefCon, I respect each one and each one has added to the mix various points that I appreciate. This is true whether it is George Alvarado’s points on evangelism or apologetics, Manfred’s book reviews or posts on various doctrinal issues, J.L. Pattison’s posts on various topics, or even Sony Elise’s words of encouragement. Each of these individuals are my friends, some closer than others, and I will defend each one of them even if I do not always agree with them with everything they post or will post.

In conclusion, my entire point of the post is to bring us back to the reality that we will all disagree until the Lord takes us home. Then we will quickly come to the understanding that we were not right on everything. However, that will quickly fade as we realize how glorious it is to be worshiping with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. To find ourselves standing, kneeling, dancing, waving our hands, stomping our feet with glee, or running the hills of glory will be all worth it in the end when we see Jesus Christ, who ALONE is the author and finisher of our faith. I expect, in the meantime, that we each strive diligently to be gracious to each other so that others will see the reflection of the Master Carpenter.

Our Eternal Sabbath is Alive!

It was a long three days, but some time between sundown on the old Sabbath and sunrise, the Lord Jesus Christ rose victorious over death, hell, and the grave! He is now our Eternal Sabbath for all who place their faith in Him alone. Maranatha!

Preparing for Jesus’ Coming

I wonder what it was like to live before Jesus was born. The prophets had foretold His birth and encouraged people to be ready, but I wonder how many took the prophecy seriously. Maybe it seemed like one of those tales they had heard their whole lives so, even if it would become true some day, it most likely wouldn’t be in their lifetime.

 

sermon_prophecyofJesusbirth1

I expect that people then were very much like they are today. The difference is that, today, we know He came. He lived, He died, He rose. But He also promised to come again! Are we watching, making sure that we are ready for His return? Or we are going through life with a vague recollection that He said He would return, but it probably won’t be for a long time yet?

Although that may be true, we need to live as if He were coming today. So many missed His first coming. I do not want to be among those who are not ready for Jesus’ second coming.

As you celebrate this week, think about how much we truly have to celebrate. God so loved you that He gave His Son, and one day, we will get to see Him face to face. Lord, hasten that day!