Tag Archives: Gospel

The Authority of Feelings: Evangelism in the Workplace (1 of 4)

My first night of work

My first night of work as a concierge/security guard was not only an evening of training in security, but (by the grace of God) an evening of spreading the Gospel to my supervisor.

So your training to be a pastor?

The guard asked me, “So your training to be a pastor?” I said, “Yes.” He asked, “In what kind of church? I replied, “I do not know, but I would be best suited for a Baptist Church.” He went on to tell me that he grew up in an evangelical church, but that he cannot believe. He expressed to me his frustrations with the church. I let him talk and did not really have much to say, other than, “That’s too bad,” and sometimes, “That’s not biblical.” Of course, I was only hearing one side of the story, but the story is always worth listening to. He talked for quite some time and I did not say much.

I asked him a question

Later on in the evening I was praying for another opportunity to talk to him, not only about the church and God, but about the Gospel of Christ and where how he stands before God. The Lord answered my prayer and we talked for a while! I forget exactly how the conversation started, but I eventually asked him, “Can I tell you what the Gospel is?” He said, “sure.” Praise God! My heart was rejoicing. I went on, starting in Genesis 1-3 and eventually telling him of Christ’s work on our behalf, along with his need to believe the Gospel. If my memory is correct, I believe I used Romans 5 as my main text for explaining the Gospel. Whatever the case, I was sure to tell him that God is commanding him to repent (Acts 17:30).

He responded, “But how can God . . . ?”

He agreed that much of what I was saying was true. However, he told me, “I just can’t believe. How can God, who is in control of all things and knows that man will reject Him and go to hell, go ahead and create the world? I need an answer to that question.” He was also hung up on the issue of election. He was familiar with the biblical doctrine of election and he questioned why God would create the world, knowing that He did not choose many, allowing them to go to hell. He said, “I need answer to that. I need evidence, that’s just the way I am.” Needless to say, we talked for a long time. Indeed, I pulled out my apologetics box and sought to tell him what the Bible teaches on these topics saying, “I do not think that I will necessarily answer your questions in a way that fully satisfies you, but I do know what the Bible teaches about these topics, so I will tell you what the Bible says. Then you will be better able to think through these issues. However, even though I sought to reason with him, I only did so for so long. His questions/objections may actually NOT be what is really holding him back from believing. They might be, but they might not be. It is good for us to be aware of this in our evangelism. One thing I know for sure is that  he needs to be confronted with the Gospel because the Gospel is the power of God to save him (Rom 1:16 and 10:17).

Would God accept you or reject you?

I asked him, “If you were to die today, would God accept you or reject you?
” He said, “I think He would reject me.” I said, “Really? Why?” He replied, “Because of all the bad things I have done; I actually got in trouble with the law and well, trust me, I know he would reject me.” I asked, “Are you concerned about this?” He said that he was. Thus, I proceeded to tell him that Jesus came to save sinners. That is who Jesus came for – people just like him (and me!) – sinners. He seemed somewhat surprised but also deeply encouraged by this truth.

The authority of feelings

As we continued to talk, he told me, “I just can’t believe, it just doesn’t feel right.” I asked, “So, what is it that is making your decision for you?” He said, “I do not know.” I said, “Well, you said it was your feelings.” We were silent, then I continued, “Do you see that your feeling is what is dictating what you do or do not believe?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “That is the difference between you and me. I believe that the Bible is God’s Word and that it can be trusted. I believe the Gospel because it is God’s Word. You do not believe because of your feelings. Your trust your feelings more than the Bible. Your feelings are your god.” He understood what I was saying, and though he seemed somehow sobered and in a contemplative state, he did not show any indication that there was any problem with the authority he was giving to his own feelings. I hope he saw this as a problem. But I do not know. God knows.

Some closing remarks

Sometimes it is helpful to show people that they are making themselves out to be god (by determining what is good and evil, true and not true). In this case, my supervisor’s feelings were the ultimate guide to his belief about the Gospel.  Let God be true and ever man a liar. May the Lord help us not to rely on our own feelings, but on His sure Word.

By the grace of God, He gave me favour with my supervisor throughout the entire month of my work as a concierge/security guard. Who knows how the Lord will use the message of His grace that was spread that night. May God be merciful to him as He has been to me.

Whitefield Stirs Peter’s Meditations on Evangelism

This post was written by my close friend Peter N. He is currently at teachers college in Ottawa. What you will read below is an inspiring quote on Whitefield’s evangelistic zeal followed by an insightful meditation on personal evangelism.

Reading about Whitefield

I have endeavoured to pick up where I left off a year ago and finish reading Volume 2 of Arnold Dallimore’s biography of George Whitefield. There is a quote at the beginning of chapter 4 that caught my attention.

The Quote:

“Whitefield was the very first Englishman who seems to have thoroughly understood what Dr. Chalmers aptly called the aggressive system. He was the first to see that Christ’s ministers must do the work of fishermen. They must not wait for souls to come to them, but must go after souls, and ‘compel them to come in.’ He did not sit tamely by his fire-side…mourning over the wickedness of the land. He went forth to beard the devil in his high places. He attacked sin and wickedness face to face and gave them no peace…In short, he set on foot a system of action, which up to his time, had been comparatively unknown in this country, but a system which, once commenced, has never ceased to be employed…” Bishop J. C. Ryle in Christian Leaders of the 18th Century.

This quote inspired the following meditation on evangelism:

Indeed, if we really are convinced that God has His elect in the earth, and believe that to be a truth not to be denied, how are we actively seeking to win His elect over to Christ?

The temptation is to lean toward the strain of hyper-Calvinism, which says that if God elects His children, He will do so with or without our help, for God needs no aid. This tends toward a particular streak of apathy and laziness in terms of speaking the gospel to our fellow-man. The default position of our attitude towards the lost inherently, whether we are aware of it or not, is to think that if God will save them, He will save them, and this is the key thought, “But not through me.”

But this is not to be for the Christian!

Other related streams of thought revolve around this poisonous doctrine. The thought is always, “God, send someone else to tell this person about the gospel,” when God’s Spirit is clearly telling you to speak of Christ. Another subtle thought is to say, “I’ll simply live such a good life around this person that they will inevitably ask me what is this hope I cling to.”

There are two objections to this that come immediately to mind. First, has someone ever actually asked you this question? I think if we were honest most of us would admit not many have asked such a question of us. A corollary question to this one is: If we were really living as Christians as we ought, might there be more questions asked of us by our unbelieving friends? Perhaps the reason we never get asked to give a reason for the hope that we have is because we are not truly living out the called out, separated lives we are supposed to, as saints of God.

The second objection has to do with the very nature of saving faith. How did you become saved? It could not have been through merely the exemplary life of a Christian. Such a life may have reinforced the leading you had towards Christ, but was it not foremost the proclamation of the gospel to you that you believed? Is it not the belief in the essential doctrines of the gospel that makes you a believer?

So, this brings us to the point of this discussion. We must proclaim the gospel to unbelievers. We must open our mouths and speak of Christ to them. No doubt, the testimony of our lives insofar as it is consistent with the Word of God will bolster the testimony of the gospel. But the gospel’s proclamation to repent and believe is the way God saves. The person must hear the gospel. The Spirit must grant saving faith to that person as the gospel is preached to them.

A Challenge this Christmas season

This holiday season there will be many opportunities to speak of Christ to those around us. May we not enter into that dangerous strain of hyper-Calvinism and all its subtle implications and outworkings in our lives. Lord, loosen our tongues to boldly speak of Christ to the lost. For how can they believe in someone they have never heard proclaimed to them? (Rom 10.14)

The Importance of Praying for Open Doors

This post was written by my good friend Peter N. He is a faithful man who loves Christ. I asked him to write this post after watching him faithfully evangelize at a restaurant this past weekend. I have learned much from him and I hope you will too. In this post he shares the story of what happened while attending my highschool alumni basketball game. This story serves as a great reminder of the importance of praying for open doors (and also attempting to turn conversations toward Christ). I trust you will profit from reading it.

Unexpected turn of events

This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to join Steve F., John M., Paul M., and Georgie M. to a yearly alumni basketball game in Listowel, Ontario, where they grew up and went to high school. The players were made up of past and present students of Listowel District Secondary School who played basketball. After the game, the tradition is to eat dinner at a particular restaurant. I had personally not planned on attending this event, but in God’s sovereignty I went along with them.

Praying for open doors

Paul M. had prayed before the game for evangelistic opportunities throughout the day. Once again the five of us prayed before dinner in the car for doors to open to share the gospel during dinner. The Lord answered us.

Discerning the situation

We entered the restaurant and only three of the players were already seated, T, S, and K. Once seated next to them we began to engage in small talk with the three who were there, snacking on peanuts and waiting for others to arrive. Others began to arrive while I was intentionally probing the three to see if a conversation would develop where the gospel could be presented. Nothing seemed to be going anywhere with K and T (they were not that talkative), but I began to have a conversation with S (who was quite talkative), asking about his work, life, and family.

The Lord opens the door

By this time, most had arrived, were seated, and we had ordered our food. As I continued to ask S about his family he mentioned his sister on an exchange program in another country. He remarked how she would come back next year “guaranteed.” That word struck me, guaranteed. “There really are no guarantees in life,” I thought. I proceeded to say that to him hoping that it would lead to a spiritual conversation. Thankfully, it did. He responded by asserting that if there are no guarantees in life, how can that statement be a guarantee? He was right. But the statement is still true from a human perspective. We as humans can make no guarantees apart from the promises of God. In that sense there are no guarantees in life. I asked him, “What do you think happens to you when you die?” That began an hour-long dialogue between him, Paul M., John M., and me.

He claimed to be a good person and on that basis God would accept him. He was skeptical of the exclusivity of Christianity and the Bible’s claims. He argued that he could not simply accept our testimony without having studied them himself. Paul M. clearly described the gospel to him. Paul M. challenged him to repent and believe the gospel, and by waiting he was actively rejecting the gospel. He needed to make a decision now. He chose to reject the gospel, excusing himself by stating he was going to wait for it to be revealed to him. In the meantime, he would continue searching for truth and be a good person.

I challenged him to search for the truth; not to dismiss the claims of the Bible and Christ without first having studied them himself, and without bringing presuppositions to the text. I urged him to read The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel because it adequately explains the history behind the formation of the canon. Steve F. suggested he read The Reason for God by Tim Keller. This is another excellent book, which highlights the rationality of believing in God and especially the God of the Bible. He said he would read them. I pray he does. I got his e-mail address to follow-up with him. I will in the coming weeks.

It all started with prayer

It all started with the prayers in the car, before and after the game. The Spirit gave us the willingness and intentionality to proclaim the gospel to S, not to mention in the hearing of T and K. The Lord was sovereign. He answered our prayers. He gave us the boldness we needed. To Him belongs the glory forever and ever.

Gospel on the GO Bus

Late night on the GO

Recently, I was travelling from Toronto to Guelph on the GO bus. The trip was late at night. By the time we were getting close to the Guelph there was only one other passenger on the bus (sitting near the back). I was sitting right at the front . . . in a great spot for a conversation with the bus driver.

I did not feel like talking, BUT . . . 

I did not feel like talking. However, I sensed that it would be best to try to talk to the driver and hopefully spread the Gospel to him. Yet, I found a war being waged within myself, “Just read your Bible instead, it’s too awkward to say something to this guy.” But on the other hand, “Have faith in God, just say something; who knows what the Lord may do?” “No, he is going think you are weird; just read, that makes more sense.” Yet, “Why wouldn’t you try to evangelize; be bold, open your mouth and speak?” The war continued, but finally, by the grace of God, I spoke (praying much).

I opened my mouth

“So how long you been driving bus?” I forget the exact amount of years, but he said something like, “Ten years.” I said, “How do you like it?” He replied, “It’s good.” I said, “Do you always do this route or do they switch it up?” He responded, “They switch it up.” The small continued for a bit and that was it. Silence. Attempt made. Good little chat, no Gospel, but at least I tried. A little discouraging that the conversation ended so soon. But, I cannot force things – I guess the Lord was not opening the door. Or was He?

I sat in silence for a little while, wanting to say something, but having no idea what would be suitable to say. No longer we went without speaking the more weird I felt resuming the conversation. Finally, he passed a truck and said to me, “This truck was holding us up and all the traffic behind us, now we can go faster.”

I thought, “Wow, he said something! This is an open door to respond . . . somehow . . . in someway.” I said, “I notice you have an accent. Where are you from?” He said, “Sri Lanka.” “Really!” I replied. Then I went on to explain how I have friends from Sri Lanka. He found this interesting. I learned that has been in Canada for over twenty years now. I went on to ask him about his religion. He told me that he is Hindu though Sri Lanka is largely Buddhist.  

Talking about Jesus

I told him that I was a Christian and asked, “What do you believe about Jesus?” He did not really answer my question but assured me that he is not very religious and that religion has been the cause of great problems in the world, especially war. I agreed to this sad reality but told him that Jesus Christ came to give peace, to reconcile people to God. He seemed quite intrigued. [Now for those of you NT scholars, I know it is also true, in another sense, that Jesus also came “not to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt 10:34), BUT this is in reference to personal relationships with family . . . on the cost of following Jesus.]

I asked him, “Do you know the Gospel of Jesus Christ?” “No.” I asked, “Can I tell you what it is?” He said, “sure.” I started by explaining Genesis 1-3 (in summary fashion). I focused on how God is the Creator and that He created all things good. I told him how God created us to be with him. God was to be our God, we were to be his people and He was to dwell in our midst. But Adam and Eve rebelled against God, and this rebellion had deadly repercussions. I stopped and asked him if he understood what I was saying. He affirmed that he did. So I went on.

Romans 5 with people from the East

From this point I basically explained Romans 5:12-21. We talked about the difference between the individualistic culture of the West as opposed to the East. He agreed that the culture of Sri Lanka is much more familial. He seemed to have a clear understand of how the SIN of one family member serious affects the rest of the family. So, I explained Adam and Jesus as the two representative heads of mankind. If my memory is correct, I think I talked about the consequence for sinning against God, which is everlasting punishment. I talked about the guilt of our sin and how the entire human race is unable to somehow undo our guilt. It is too late.

Thus, I explained how God has shown his great love toward us in providing a way to be saved from our sin, guilt and punishment. He sent Jesus to be our representative in two ways. He came on our behalf, acting as a substitute, both in his (1) life=representative righteousness for us, and (2) death=representative bearing punishment for us.

From this point I explained how the only way to benefit from the work the Jesus has done on our behalf is being stopping to live our lives our way, and to turn to Jesus, putting all of our trust in Him and the WORK that HE HAS DONE on our behalf.

If my memory is correct, I think I stopped and asked him if he understood what I saying. Again, he said that he did. Sometimes I ask this often because it gives the person a chance to ask questions and to gain clarification on anything I said that may be unclear to them. Whatever the case, he really seemed to be listening and understanding (at least on an intellectual level). I asked him, “Have you ever heard this message before?” He said, “No, but it is good to hear this teaching.”

The Gospel is a message of command

I continued, “There is one more thing you need to know. This message is not just an option. The Bible says that God is commanding all people everywhere repent, that is, to turn to Christ (Acts 17:30-31), even you and me – all people. Everyone will face the judgement.”

A weighty feeling of intensity and awkwardness

At this point I could feel the intensity of our conversation. This was not a light conversation. I was telling him that God is commanding him to turn to Jesus Christ. There was a weight that I could feel in the air. I was uncomfortable. I was tempted to say something to lighten things up a bit. Possibly I could say, “Well that’s Gospel. Thanks for listening,” or “So, how many kids do you have?” or “Do you have a place where you meet with other Hindu’s for worship?” I often make the mistake of saying something to lighten things up at these really intense moments. This time God gave me the grace to let it sit. I endured the awkwardness and said nothing. Neither did he. I wondered what he was thinking – only God knows. That was it.

Eventually, we had some brief small chat when he dropped me off in Guelph. He was very friendly. I gave him a copy of the NT and a Gospel tract inserted. He was thankful for it. This is the ministry of planting. You never know what kind of ground you are planting on AND who God may send to water.

Praise God for His Grace

Praise God for shaking off my fears and giving me boldness. This evangelistic break through was because of God’s grace. I am thankful to God for this grace. I was filled with joy after sharing. People come to faith by hearing the Gospel (Rom 10:17). May the Lord give us the grace to keep spreading it!

Back to the Bus Stops – An Hour with Steve F.

Georgie and I returned from our honeymoon this past Sunday (by the way, I love being married to Georgie!).  Upon returning we’ve been busy moving into our new place. So now, after about a month of silence, I am online again and ready to blog!

After feeling convicted for shying away from some evangelistic opportunities (and possible promptings) this past month, I felt burdened to hit the bus stops today. After spending time in the Word (2 Kings 6:8-19 and Phil. 1:29) and prayer, Steve F and I hit the bus stops at Islington and Elmhurst for about an hour this afternoon. What follows is a very brief summary/recap of two conversations we had:

A Catholic Trusting in his Works

Steve and I approached a guy at the bus stop. I told him we were from the church down the road and that we were out sharing the Gospel. I asked him if we could speak with him briefly while he waited for his bus. He was cool with that, but he reassured me that he too was a Christian for he was Catholic.

Then I proceeded to talk to him about Jesus as the only way to God. He then informed me that he is NOT really a devout Catholic but that his parents are more Catholic than he. I cut to the chase and asked if he thought God would accept him or reject him if he were to die today. He was convinced that God would accept him. He said he was a good person. He also mentioned that he had never murdered anyone or did anything really evil.

I told him that what ultimately matters on Judgement Day is the standards of the Judge. I said, “God standards are what matter. Jesus talked about these standards.” I opened up my little NT to Matthew and read Matthew 5:27-28 on Jesus’ standards concerning adultery and lusting. The bus came so I gave him the NT and really encouraged him to read the tract inserted.

Talking to an Agnostic with No Religious Background

We approached this young man (we will call him V) the same way as we did the Catholic. He did not seem to be excited about talking, but he definitely listened and seem to get more interested the more we conversed. I quoted from John 14:6 and told him that Jesus must be either the Lord, a lunatic or a liar. He agreed to these logical possibilities. I asked him, “Have you ever read from the Bible?” “No,” he replied. Then I said, “Do you have any religious background?” Again, he responded, “No.” I asked, “Do your parents have a religious background?” He said, “Buddhist.” Then he told us that he was basically agnostic.

Steve proceeded to explain the law of God. He asked V if he had ever lied, stolen, dishonoured his parents. If my memory is correct, V confessed to breaking these laws. After going through the law, Steve asked him how this all relates to his worldview as an agnostic.

On that topic the conversation swung back to me. I did not want V to think that he was somehow exempt from the law of God and it’s just demands simply by being agnostic. Thus, I decided to show him that his worldview is self-refuting and thus problematic. I said, “I am not trying to be rude with you here, I just want you to consider how being agnostic is self-refuting. Think about this: you are certain that you cannot be certain about things.” He said, “I guess you can put it that way.” I said, “I do not know exactly how your agnosticism fleshes out compared to other agnostics, but is true that you believe that we cannot know anything for sure?” He agreed (that we cannot know anything for sure). I said, “Listen closely, this position is self-refuting, it does not hold – you are saying that you are absolutely sure that you cannot be sure about anything.” I spelled this out slowly for I wanted him to see that he really is sure about something, namely, that you cannot be sure about anything. I am not sure if he has ever had anyone attack the very foundation of his worldview like this, but I hope the Lord uses it to shake his confidence in agnosticism and to drive Him to the Scriptures and to Christ.

We gave him a NT and encouraged him to read it and to read the Gospel insert as well. His bus came and he seemed to be slightly sad to leave. I told him that my contact info is on the literature we gave him. Then he left.

Praise God for giving Steve F and I the grace to go and spread His Word. May He keep us humble and may His Word bear fruit and multiply.

Last Day of Internship and the Righteousness from God that Depends on Faith

Today was my last day of work. I understand that many people dream of their last day of work, but not me. Well, at least not for this job. I will miss full-time evangelism. Though this summer came with difficulty, God granted grace upon grace to keep me going and looking to Him for help. He is faithful.

So, how did I spend my last day? Well, I spent much time working on preparing the curriculum for our summer kids series (Exploring Egypt to Sinai: 4 P’s that Point You to Christ!). I am hoping to have it ready as a pdf document that can be accessed for free on the Grace Fellowship Church website. Hopefully it will be ready soon and hopefully it will be a blessing to others. I had a long meeting with a Muslim man today. This was our second meeting. Both meetings have lasted at least three hours! Thank the Lord that Tim Horton’s does not have a maximum time limit!

Luis (from the Spanish Church) came out with me again. This time we read in Acts 4 and 18 before praying and hitting the bus stops in Rexdale. I will share one little recap (or snippet) of an encouraging little conversation we had this morning.

The Righteousness from God that Depends on Faith

Luis and I approached a man handing him a coin with the 10 commandments on it. He thought it was neat. We explained that we are from the GFC and how we were out spreading the Gospel. He told us that he is a Christian.

Before long I asked the man, “If you were to die today, do you believe that God would accept you or reject you?” He told me, “That is tough to answer. I mean, we all have sinned and sin cannot be in God’s presence; so we have to repent. But, I have sinned today, if not in my actions then in my thoughts. But I need to repent. You see, that is a tough question. I don’t know.”

I replied by telling him of the importance of the question. He agreed. Then I said, “We can know whether or not God will accept us. Jesus spoke on these very things when he came. I mean – I know. I know that God will accept me.” He said, “How do you know?” I said, “Because my faith is in Jesus – let me show you a passage.” I went to Philippians 3.7-9. I opened it up and held it before him reading it aloud. Interestingly, he pulled out his pen and underlined everything that I read (while I was reading it). He seemed genuinely interested.

After our public Scripture reading (I love that!), I said, “People refer to an alien as something that comes from outer space, that is, from outside the world. In this passage, Paul speaks of alien righteousness. This is a righteousness that we do not work for. This is the righteousness that I have received because of my faith in Christ. I did not work for it. Now, this is the righteousness that I have which makes me acceptable for Judgment and to God.”

He seemed intrigued. He goes to a Church, but this all seemed like new news to him. Then he said to me, “How can you know if you have faith?” I said, “That’s a great question.” I flipped to 1st John and told him, “This letter, 1st John, was written primarily to answer that question.” I put my Gospel tract in that part of the NT (which I had given to him) so that he could easily access 1st John.

The bus came and I told him that my contact info is on the NT I gave him. He was thankful and told me that he was going to call me. We will see. Praise the Lord for answering our prayers. Luis and I really prayed for open doors. Accordingly, the Lord opened doors. He is faithful. (Prayer is absolutely essential in evangelism because God is absolutely essential in evangelism).

Philippians 3.9 is one of the clearest verses on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to believers. Those who are truly saved “do not have a righteousness of [their] own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” May the Lord grant him faith in Christ that he may receive righteousness from God. How else can we be rightly clothed for Judgment Day?

I think it is fitting to end my internship on the note of Philippians 3.9. Chew on this my friend . . . and savour the flavour! The Gospel of justification by faith alone and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness – this is the Gospel that melts the heart with love and causes the mouth to open and even speak! May the Lord help us in our evangelism as he has in giving us his righteousness.

This Blog

This blog will likely continue into the fall, but I will have to think and pray more about this – please let me know of any ideas you have to make this blog more of a blessing to Christ’s church. To those of you who have been faithfully praying for me and encouraging me: Thank you so much for your interest, love and support. I really felt prayed for and I am thankful to God for you. Sincerely, thank you so much – you co-laboured with me and helped in the spread of the Gospel. Rejoice my friend, rejoice! God did great things this summer – lots of planting! Lots and lots of planting. Oh that we might see a harvest in Canada in our lifetime . . . and if not in ours – oh that it may be in the next! The Lord may do it. Glory is due His Name.

Why Must We Evangelize? (Part 3 of 3)

Q. Why must we evangelize?

A. Because faith comes from hearing the Gospel.

Textual Evidence

In Romans 10.17 Paul writes, “So faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Thus, faith comes from hearing the word of Christ. As Thomas Schreiner and Douglas Moo rightly note, “the word of Christ” in this context functions to mean “the word about Christ” (Schreiner, Romans, 567) or “the word that proclaims Christ” (Moo, Romans, 666). Paul is referring to the Gospel message about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (see context of Romans 10.14-17 and cf. Isaiah 52.7-53.12). Paul is saying that people must hear the Gospel in order to receive saving faith.

This truth corresponds with Romans 1.16: “The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” The Gospel is the surgical instrument that goes into the ear. Upon entering the ear, it reaches down to the heart, and if the heart is ready (by God’s grace), the Gospel makes it new and gives it a set of eyes – the eyes of faith (cf. Ephesians 1.18 and 2 Corinthians 3.18-4.6)!

Peter writes about the power of the Gospel to save. In 1 Peter 1.23 he tells us, “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” But, what does he mean by “living and abiding word of God”? Peter is not just talking about any portion of Scripture. He is talking about the Gospel. How do we know this? Look at the context. Notice what he writes in verse 25: “And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” Therefore, people are born again through hearing the Gospel. The Spirit works in conjunction with the Word of the Gospel to make people born again (cf. John 3. 1-8).

Therefore, we must evangelize because unbelievers will NOT believe unless they hear the message of the Gospel. This is a very strong statement worthy of much contemplation. This kind of belief and perspective can change our lives. In accordance with the grace of God we can find ourselves regularly compelled and constrained to speak of Christ – not because it gives us favour with God, nor to avoid God’s wrath, but because of the following logical equation:

1) We have the message that saves people.

2) People need to hear in order to be saved.

3) Therefore, we must to preach the Gospel to them so that they can hear and be saved.

The apostles understood this equation very well. This is one of the greatest reasons why they passionately and consistently preached the Gospel until their dying breath. This may also be one of the reasons why Paul said, “For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9.16).

Objection

Who are we to tell people they must turn to Christ? People need to first observe our Christian lifestyle. Once they see that we are different they will ask us why we live the way we do. At this point, we have earned our right to speak; thus, we can share the Gospel. As Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel all day long and only when necessary use words.”

Response

This objection deserves a response on a number of fronts.  I will address three.

First, who are we to tell people they must turn to Christ? Answer: we are nothing. BUT, our preaching does not actually imply that we think we are something. On the contrary, the message we spread confirms we are nothing and that we desperately need God. We are simply God’s appointed messengers. He is one who commands us to spread the Word. A better question to ask is this: who is God to tell people they must turn to Christ? That is the right question. If you can answer that question correctly, you will quickly see that he has every right to send whoever he wills to speak to whoever he wills whenever and wherever he wills.

I know that there is some merit to the famous slogan that you have to earn your right to speak. Many of us have experienced the Lord open doors for evangelism precisely because someone noticed our love, or kindness, or self-control, etc. However, just because the Lord opens doors this way, that does not mean this is the ONLY WAY He opens doors. Nor does this mean it is the primary way the Lord opens doors. Though we read that we are to “let [our] light shine before others, so that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5.16), they cannot know who the Father really is apart from the message of the Gospel which is “the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1.16).

Second, I do not deny that a Christian’s lifestyle can have a powerful influence upon others. There is no doubt that Christian love (John 13.35) and unity (John 17.21) can have a profound influence upon curious observers. However, as we learned from Paul and Peter, it is the message of the Gospel itself that saves people. And though it is not wrong to wait for the right time to speak of Christ, the right time is not always a long time. Just think, if you believe that you have to live a life of love before a person for X amount of time, where do you get this standard of time from? And how loving do you have to be before you can speak? What if they do not notice your love? Do you have to wait for people to inquire before you can speak? Where do people get such statutes about evangelism? Whenever we read of “being ready to give an answer,” this never presupposes some notion that we are not to evangelize until we are asked questions.

I find the Bible teaching us to love God with all our hearts and to love everyone as our self. This should be manifested in many ways, but hopefully one way is through opening our mouths and speaking of Christ. I find the Bible teaching us to preach the Gospel often (Acts 1-28) and to be praying for the Lord to open doors (Colossians 4.3). Christians should be messengers eagerly looking for open mailboxes to deliver the message of the Gospel. Sometimes doors take a while to open – and that is okay – we cannot force doors to open. But sometimes they do not take that long. You will only know if you go around knocking.

Third, on the famous quote supposedly by St. Francis of Assisi. Truth is, there is no evidence that he actually said that. Furthermore, even if he did, is it biblical? I appreciate a certain aspect of this slogan. I agree that we should live our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1.27). We should be holy for the Lord is holy (1 Peter 1.16). And I agree, may our lives have a powerful voice. HOWEVER, should we live exemplar lives and restrict (and limit) our Gospel talk? Where on earth did this idea ever come from? Of course, hypocrisy is a terrible thing. But the cure to hypocrisy is the repentance of the hypocrites, not decreasing the vocals of Christians. In fact, I do not see how you can really live life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ WITHOUT actively spreading the gospel of Christ. I know there are shut-ins and other rare circumstances, but the exceptions are few.

In Philippians 1.27-30, God calls the Philippians not only to believe, but also to suffer (1.29). In the context Paul is talking about “striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (1.27). Paul tells them that they are to suffer in a similar way that they saw him suffer. Paul is referring to his sufferings in Philippi – the time he was beaten with rods, inflicted with many blows and imprisoned (Acts 16. 23). Thus, God is calling the Philippians to suffer in the work of spreading the Gospel. Therefore, like the Philippians, we must evangelize.

Let us not forget the equation:

1) We have the message that saves people.

2) People need to hear in order to be saved.

3) Therefore, we must to preach the Gospel to them so that they can hear and be saved.

Why Must We Evangelize? (Part 2 of 3)

This post is the second of three. As I explained in part one, these posts correspond to the three points of the sermon that I preached at Grace Chapel this past Sunday.

Q. Why must we evangelize?

A. Because God commands us to make disciples.

Textual Evidence

The resurrected King Jesus commanded his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28.19-20). This passage is so familiar to many of us that we hardly think it needs exposition and contemplation. We have mastered it, right? Or have we? I do not claim to have mastered it, but I would like to share some thoughts directly related to the topic of evangelism. Let us begin by dealing with a potential objection.

Objection

Jesus commands us to make disciples. That is not exactly a call to evangelism.

Response

Though the command to make disciples is not exclusively a command to evangelize, it is a command which includes the mandate to evangelize. There are three aspects of this passage that I want to highlight. I will save the third point for the conclusion and application section.

First, on making disciples. The most important aspect of making disciples is telling them of their need to repent and believe upon Christ. Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6.29). My point is this: the command to go and make disciples includes the command to go and spread the Gospel. Have you ever pondered how Peter obeyed the command to go and make disciples? Read Acts 2. You find him preaching the Gospel. Read Acts 2-12. Amongst other things, you primarily find him preaching the Gospel. Of course, there is more to making disciples than exclusively preaching the Gospel, but the Gospel must be central.

Can you imagine making disciples apart from regularly focusing on and preaching the Gospel? You make legalists. These disciples study their Bibles all the way to hell (cf. John 5.39). In fact, they can evangelize all the way to hell. They can “accept Jesus” and then work work work, but they are not disciples of Jesus Christ unless they persevere in doing the work of believing upon him. Please do not misunderstand me. I know that faith without works is dead, BUT, even these works are to issue forth from confidence in the Cross. When it comes to works, the only thing that counts is FAITH working through love (Galatians 5.6). Therefore, making disciples means we must evangelize.

Second, on “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Some people object that the call to make disciples (which necessitates evangelism) was primarily for the apostles. These people usually argue that evangelism is primarily reserved for religious leaders (i.e. pastors, evangelists, missionaries, etc.). They are right about one thing. The command to make disciples was specifically given to the apostles. However, they forget one MASSIVELY important point. Jesus also commanded them to teach these future disciples “to observe all that I have commanded you.” This includes the very command he just gave them, namely, making disciples (which includes the command to evangelize)! Thus, their objection is destroyed. Matthew 28.19-20 teaches us that God commands us to evangelize.

Conclusion and Application

As demontrated above, we must evangelize because God commands us to. One word of application should significantly encourage us toward obedience. Thus, third and finally, on Christ being with us. In verse 20, Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” If you are anything like me, you find evangelism very hard. Evangelism can be frightening. Jesus knows that we struggle with sin (fears often expose idols) and weakness (not every fear is evil). He was well acquainted with Peter’s denial. But in this passage, he tells us, “I am with you always.” This is my confidence in evangelism: Jesus is with me. The Holy Spirit is in me. By His strength and help, I will obey His command to evangelize. Accordingly, may He receive all the glory for the work that is done. We must walk by faith. Christian, without faith it impossible to please the Lord (Hebrews 11.6).

When Paul was in Corinth, Jesus told him, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you . . .” (Acts 18:9-10). Christian, Christ is with you. The Spirit is in you. Do not be afraid. Either start speaking or go on speaking. Either way, do not be silent. Christ is with you. Be sure of this: this kind of evangelistic work is not reserved for apostles or evangelists. In Acts 4, Luke tells us of a prayer meeting in Jerusalem. A group of believers prayed for the Lord to give them boldness (4.29). What happened? Well, we read that “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (4.31). We must evangelize. Take courage my friends, the Lord is with us to help us. May He show Himself strong.

Why Must We Evangelize? (Part 1 of 3)

Yesterday was Grace Chapel’s last fellowship lunch of the summer. Habib had asked me to preach on the call to evangelize the lost. Thus, I preached a sermon focused on three reasons why we must evangelize. I did not argue that these are necessarily the three most important reasons – only that these are three of many reasons. This post states just one reason. I will follow up with the other two reasons with two other posts (later this week).

Q. Why must we evangelize the lost?

A. Because God’s Commands all people everywhere to believe on Jesus Christ.

Textual Evidence

In Acts 17, Paul says, “now [God] commands all people everywhere to repent” (v. 30). Notice, when Paul preaches the gospel to the Athenians, he tells them that God commands repentance. Jesus Christ is not simply the way the Athenians should turn – they must! God is commanding them and they will face judgment (17.30-31).

In Mark 1.15, Jesus comes preaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus, as the King of kings, commands all people to believe. He is NOT simply offering himself as the best option.

In 2 Thessalonians 1.8 Paul writes that God will inflict vengeance “on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” They are punished precisely because they do not obey the command to believe upon Jesus Christ.

Objection

You may object, “But these passages teach that God commands all people to believe on Christ – NOT that Christians must evangelize.” These are two different commands.

Response

Though these passages do not state that we, as Christians, MUST evangelize, a small dose of reason formulates at least two inferences: 1) I must actively believe the gospel; and 2) People around me must actively believe the gospel.

Therefore, first, I need to examine myself to make sure that really have all my faith placed upon Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 13.5).

Second, others must believe. (The following argument presupposes that Christians are to love others, as the Scriptures say, “Love your neighbour as yourself”). As a Christian who does NOT live in a cave, I will share three observations that, taken together, necessarily demand our evangelistic efforts: 1) most people do not obey God’s command to believe on Christ; 2) most people do not know that God is commanding them to believe the Gospel; and 3) most people do not really know the Gospel. (The three uses of “most” carry the meaning “many” and “majority”).

Without being a rocket scientist I can tell you what these observations present us. They present us with a love obligation to TELL people what the Gospel is and that God is commanding them to believe. If Christians were not commanded to LOVE, I would have no basis for my argument. BUT, we are commanded to love and to look out for the welfare of others – thus, we have this love obligation to spread the Gospel (cf. Romans 1.14).

Conclusion and Application

Therefore, we must evangelize. Now, on that point, one word of application. When God opens the door for us to have a conversation with someone about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, if we have not already made it clear, we ought to tell them that believing in Jesus Christ is NOT simply an option, but that God commands that person to believe. After explaining the Gospel to someone I will often quote from Acts 17.30 emphasizing to them that God is commanding them to repent and turn to Christ.

May the Lord help us. If you feel paralyzed in your evangelism – first things first – believe the Gospel afresh today. Think on it, chew on it and eat it. Christian, God continues to command you to keep believing the Gospel. Possibly your evangelistic neglect is rooted in your own lack of faith in Gospel. I am not saying that you are not a Christian, but maybe you are in a season of little faith (cf. Matthew 14.31) as opposed to being full of faith like Stephen (Acts 6.5). My friend, look the Cross! May our prayer be, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9.24).

Approaches to Evangelism, the Real Jesus and One Very Important Question – Do You Deserve to Go to Hell?

Not too long ago, I was out doing some bus stop evangelism with a friend of mine. He was unsure about my evangelistic approach. Now, keep in mind, this was the first time he had come out with me and his uneasiness occurred during the very first conversation we had that day. He was doubtful that it was really best for me to keep talking about God’s standards (righteousness, sin and justice) after the man had already indicated that he has sinned and was simply hoping that he will be okay on Judgment Day. Now, this man (who I was evangelizing) was a nominal Catholic who believed in God, Jesus, the Bible and so on.

So, as my friend and I talked (immediately after the first conversation) the question became this: why not transition the conversation to talk about the love of God that is centered in Jesus (that is, as soon as the man confessed he had sinned)? Why stay on the topic of Jesus’ teaching on righteousness, sin and judgment?

We Must Take a Quick Detour

I have a few things to say before I answer that question. This detour may seem long, BUT it is relevant, intentional and possibly even necessary if I am to avoid being massively misunderstood. Here I go.

Thoughts on Approaches

Let me say this at the outset: I do NOT think it would have been wrong to transition to talk about the love of God that is centered in Jesus. In fact, this would take us to the Cross upon which we could discuss not only love, but also sin, holiness, justice, mercy, wrath, righteousness, grace, faith, life, etc. I am convinced that we must be gracious with each other when it comes to HOW we get to the Gospel and HOW we seek to attempt to make it clear. There are not only many doors into the house of evangelism, but even into the dining room of the Gospel – there is so much to feast on!  However, we must be suspect of those who tell us the exact order or way we need to eat.

Most people have a general understanding that we should have appetizers, then soup/salad, main course, desert, etc. . . . but, would it be wrong to have desert first, that is, to talk of the glories of the new earth before the main course – explaining how to get there? I don’t think so. Now, if that person decided to eat desert first all the time, and not only that, but thought it was the only way to eat and told others they must do the same, then we have a problem. Indeed, we must be gracious with each other when it comes to HOW we get to the Gospel and HOW we seek to attempt to make it clear.

Though I am convinced that it is necessary to speak clearly and firmly of God’s righteous standards, His holiness, His justice, His wrath, judgment and hell, we must be careful NOT to go beyond Scripture when coming to conclusions about the ORDER and METHOD of HOW to evangelize. Indeed, we find descriptions of how to evangelize in the Bible, but these descriptions offer principles that we are to use. Principles can be applied in various ways. Now the command to evangelize is clear (Acts 1.8), but HOW this fleshes out may be different – consider how Paul evangelized the Jews in contrast to the Gentiles. He preached the Gospel to both BUT from different starting points (compare how he spoke to Jewish Galatians in Antioch at Pisidia in contrast the Gentile Galatians in Lystra – see Acts 13.13-14.18). In fact, Luke’s record of Paul’s evangelistic efforts in Acts teach us the very principle that the we need to become all things to people (cf 1 Cor 9.19-23). In other words, upon learning more about a person (especially his/her worldview), we ought to interact and preach the Gospel accordingly. I will save this worldview stuff for another post, for though it is important and deserves attention, it will take us off the intended track of this post – we are already on a detour!

What we do NOT find in the Bible is a course on how to do evangelism. By the way, I am not against such courses – in fact, I think they can be a great benefit to the church! I mean that. That being said, as much as I love Ray Comfort and the positive influence he is having on many individuals and churches, we must remember that “The Way of the Master” is more broad than working from the question, “Do you think you are a good person?” or “Do you know the ten commandments?” These are great questions to ask, and I highly recommend them in evangelism, BUT, it is not the ONLY WAY to talk about Jesus. Furthermore, might I add another note to all of my friends who like Matthius Media’s brilliant, insightful and sound evangelistic literature: working through redemptive history is NOT the only way (though it is great!). Hopefully, we can have ongoing dialogue with people to the extent that they can make more sense of who Jesus is and what He has done in light of the context of His coming (i.e., redemptive history), but let us think about the nature of the Gospel of Mark.

Mark was written primarily to Gentiles (cf. Carson and Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 182-83). Mark’s focus is on the identity of the person of Jesus Christ. Of course, his references to the OT point the reader (hearer) back to OT context, but the focus is Jesus as the Son of God (Christ/King/Messiah). Though the hard-heartedness of his disciples and antagonists is highlighted throughout his Gospel presentation, Mark does not start out talking about sin, law and judgment. And even though his Gospel starts off within the framework of God’s promise to Israel as the one who would prepare the way of the Lord (Mark 1.2-3), by Mark 1.9 the focus is on Jesus for the rest of the book. That being said, I think it is great to talk about sin, law and judgment AND to explain much of redemptive history before focusing on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, HOWEVER, these are not the only ways to evangelize – just read Mark (which is a Gospel presentation seeking to convince the reader [hearer] that Jesus is the Son of God). You may respond to me and say – “Yes, but Mark is the 41st book of 66; Mark comes to us in a historical context and AFTER the law.” That is a reasonable objection. However, do you really think that everyone who heard Mark had a working knowledge of the first 39 books? There is good reason to believe that Mark has both kind of readers (hearers) in mind.

Back on Track

Now, we are finally back on track. I hope the detour did not weary you. We were talking about the conversation I had with my friend. He was uneasy about my evangelistic approach. The question where we left off at was this: Why stay on the topic of Jesus’ teaching on righteousness, sin and judgment?

Well, this often depends on who is setting the course of the conversation. Sometimes, I am interacting with their good questions and objections (which alters the course of conversation). But, sometimes I tend to set the course. In this case, I set the course and we had already talked about God the Judge and whether or not he thought God would accept him. He thought God would, but he was not overly confident, just hopeful. I thought it would be good to talk about the standards of righteousness found in Matthew 5 (perfection). He admitted that he was not perfect, and said he was hoping that God would accept him. I stayed on the topic of God’s righteous standards. I thought it wise to explain more about these perfect standards so that he could see that he has no chance (of being accepted). You see, here is one major problem: he was not convinced that he was guilty to the extent that God would actually reject him. The bus soon came and I handed him a NT with a Gospel tract. I encouraged him to read it.

So, why did I stay on the topic of God’s righteous standards? I wanted this man to see that he is not only a sinner, meaning imperfect, but a SINNER, meaning a person who deserves God’s rejection (hell). This is a BIG difference. I have already stated that going to God’s love at this point would not be wrong. However, I think in this instance (if I was reading the man correctly), it would not be best. I think talk of God’s love would be made more sensible after fleshing out God’s righteous standards, sin, justice and judgment a little more. But, my friend thought different. I am thankful he told me.

So, he was concerned with my approach. I became concerned with his concern. For, the truth is – it is good and fitting to share the Gospel in a manner in which we talk about law, sin, Jesus’ teaching on righteousness and judgment before John 3.16 (especially when we plan to give Gospel tracts at the end of the conversation anyhow). Again, not that this is the only way, but it is a good way. Granted, these talks are not easy and can be uncomfortable, but what kind of surgery is comfortable?

Some Thoughts on Comfortable Evangelism

In evangelism we sometimes have to open up the heart. May the Lord help us. May he make us bold. If you are striving for comfortable methods of evangelism, I am concerned that you actually may be more concerned about your own comfort than you really are the condemned people you seek to reach (maybe not, but maybe . . . it would be good for us to examine our hearts on our selectiveness in our evangelistic endeavors). This is a whole other topic, but for now, let me make one qualification – this does not mean we should seek uncomfortable situations thinking that makes us more spiritual. It is good to evangelize wherever we are, whenever we can (and this will mean in comfortable and uncomfortable situations). Who is your Lord? I think when it comes to evangelism we sometimes try to be God. We will determine when we speak. We will determine who we speak to. May the Lord help us to really see the sinfulness in this type of lordship; and may such abhorrence quicken us to the Cross and repentance. I simply do not see the Biblical principle in the NT to seek for comfortable ways to evangelize – in fact, the NT evangelists seemed to go through much discomfort in their Gospel work.  Whatever the case, the post is already taking too many twists and turns – straightforward I go!

Back on Track – Do You Deserve to Go to Hell?

So, as my friend and I discussed this issue (of approaches), he used it as a chance to do more evangelism (which was great!). He asked a young lady who was standing nearby what she thought. Suddenly, we were have a three way conversation! He briefly explained to her the conversation we were having and asked her how she plans to get to heaven. With great confidence she said, “By faith in Jesus Christ.” In fact she may have said “Only by faith in Jesus Christ.” We were all silent (really, it was kind of an odd moment). We stayed silent for a bit. She must have wondered what was going on. I asked her if she goes to a church in the area and she does. It was silent again for a second. Then I asked her, “Do you believe you deserve to go to hell?” She said “No.” Again, we were all silent. Then I said, “Then what have you been saved from?” She thought for a bit and then replied, “I don’t know.” Again, we were silent (really silent). We all stood there contemplating. I did not know what to say. I don’t think the other two did either. Soon the bus came and she left.

My friend said to me, “I see your point.” Though he is still uncomfortable with the approach I used in the first conversation, he saw this point: people can “believe” in Jesus, but not really think they are all that bad. This is what we call “false faith.” For when we speak of faith, we are speaking of where one’s confidence is placed. What are they ultimately banking on to gain God’s acceptance? Is it their works? Is it Jesus plus works? Or, is it Jesus alone? And if they say Jesus alone, are they really relying on His righteousness alone? Do they know Him as “The Lord Our Righteousness”? If people do not have at least a vague idea of what they are saved from – are they really saved?

Well, what do we make of the young lady we spoke to? Can she really be a Christian? I think it is doubtful, but I must be careful here. Let me explain. It is possible for Christians to doubt the goodness of God. It is possible for Christians to doubt the justice of God. Now, I am about to say something wherein some may disagree so brace yourself: I think it is also possible for Christians, in seasons of darkness, to struggle to believe that God is just to punish them eternally. Such a struggle of faith signals serious spiritual sickness (weakness of faith) and hopefully it is only for a time, but it does not necessarily follow that “so and so” is not a Christian. Hopefully, this fight of faith is eventually won and the believer comes out of such darkness – believing God is good, and that His Word is true concerning His infinite Holiness, the exceedingly sinfulness of our sin and the justice of God in eternal condemnation.

With all that being said, why do I say that it is doubtful that the young lady was a Christan. Well, she did not believe that she deserved hell. She was certain of that. She did not appear to be wrestling with the goodness and justice of God on this issue. Furthermore, she honestly did not know what Jesus saved her from. So why does she believe? Herein is the question that would help discern whether or not she knows the real Jesus. Though this can be an insightful question, I am not sure if she could give the answer, for the purposes of man’s heart are deep waters (Prov. 20.5). I am not saying she can’t, I’m just saying that she may not really know (in light of our heart’s deceitfulness).

If she doesn’t really think she is all that bad, then it is highly unlikely that she is truly banking all of her trust in the righteousness of Christ on her behalf. Even if she thinks she is, she likely isn’t. Some people simply think they are sinners, in the sense that they are imperfect. This is distinctly different than being convinced they are SINNERS, meaning they deserve to be rejected by God (hell). This distinction is more important than the church has often realized. I argue that it is the difference of heaven and hell. Until people see that they are sinful to the extent that God will utterly reject them, what is it they want saved from? Now I know that the awareness of our sin is something we grow in as Christians, but even at the point of conversion (though this process looks quite different for different people) is there not an initial understanding of being saved from hell? This question is not rhetorical . . . if you have read this blog this far (thank you for your endurance), please let me know what you think. I would like to think that I am teachable here.

I think the heart is so deceitful (Jer 17.9) that even under the best preaching there exists professing believers who really do not believe that they deserve to go to hell. In fact, they may have never really believed they deserve to go to hell because they really don’t think (and never have thought) they are really that bad. Sure, they have been awakened to the fact that they are sinful (as in – not perfect). God has opened their eyes to see that Jesus is the Savior . . . even that there is only one way to get forgiveness of sins. They have been told that Jesus is the One who forgives and that they are to go to him freely – thus, they do (sort of). However, they see themselves as sinners, not SINNERS. They know they have failed on the moral test and that Jesus can give them the points they missed (in other words, He can make up for their bad – He died  for those sins). They failed bad and got 30 (or 40, 50, 60, etc.) out of 100. They know they need Jesus. They need Jesus to make up for the other 70 (or 60, 50, 40 etc.). BUT, deep down in their heart of hearts, they do not believe they are so sinful that God would be just to punish them eternally.

These people are in our churches. They are nice. They may be theologically sound. They help you when you need help. As there are good Muslims, kind Hindu’s, moral atheists, there are good and friendly “Christian” people. They read their Bibles daily, pray often and are faithful at church. They really are nice. They may even be generous financially. You would be as shocked as they would be to find that their faith is actually not fully rooted in Christ alone. In their heart of hearts they never were fully convinced that they were wicked (that is, really bad). They are convinced that they are sinners and that they need God’s forgiveness and mercy, but to think they have NOTHING good to bring to God . . . they may not voice this, but they do not believe that.

I have met some of these people (I think . . . and by the way, I sincerely hope I am wrong in my judgment). I will keep the church anonymous and the individuals too. Not too long ago, I ministered to a few professing Christians who go to a sound church with good teaching. By God’s grace he gave me the boldness to ask them some heart penetrating questions. Nothing in their moral lives told me I should be suspect. I had been asking many professing Christians questions about their conversion, faith and confidence of assurance. The heart is deceitful above all things – who are we kidding to assume all the professing Christians in our churches are really Christians? After much dialogue the one stated firmly that she would not consider herself to be a wretch. She thought that that term should be used for the bad people, “like murderers.” I will not tell the whole story, but it was a very telling comment. If you heard the whole story, you would learn that she was saying, “I am not perfect, but I am not a bad person.” I am not sure what she thinks of when she sings amazing grace, but my heart melts to think that she does not consider herself a SINNER. The other also did not believe she was a bad person – just imperfect. Not a SINNER, just a sinner.

Another Jesus

Imperfect Christians put their faith in Christ – but is this the real Jesus? They know that they must turn to Him. However, they do not put their faith fully in Christ. Whether they know it or not, they do not really believe that they need to. They really do believe that something they did helps make them fit for heaven (at least in a ver y small measure . . . though they know that salvation is not by works). Thus, I am convinced they have put their faith in another Jesus. They sit on pews in Baptist, Pentecostal, United, Presbyterian, Anglican, Mennonite, and Brethren churches (to name a few . . . some of these “Christians” actually don’t attend church). May the Lord help us to spread the Gospel even to these. And may we evangelize them as fellows sinners, pleading with them to realize their sinfulness and to put fullness of faith in Jesus Christ.

A great example of this problem is demonstrated in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee knew he was imperfect. He knew he needed God’s grace (at least in a small measure) – that is likely one reason why he prays.  He acknowledges God; in fact, he thanks God. He is a very religious man who fasts, gives and evidently prays. To think that he does not realize some sort of minimal need for God would be a butchering of the text.  However, deep in his heart, he is quite happy about the good he has done. He is self-righteous. I would doubt that he consider himself to be self-righteous. No, he considers himself to be righteous (there is a difference). He is happy that he is better than the tax collector. This is like the Protestant (or Catholic) Christian today who looks to Jesus and prays thanking God for how good he is doing in his Bible readings and in abstaining from various sorts of evil (etc. etc.), however, deep down he is quite glad that he is not like others (the filthy sinners). However, the tax collector has absolutely nothing to offer God. He has come to grips with his sin. He has nothing to appeal to in order to gain God’s ear (just faith in His abundant mercy). He knows that he deserves rejection. He cannot look to heaven – He cries, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (see Luke 18.9-14). According to the way I have used the terms sinner and SINNER in this post, the tax collector considered himself to be a SINNER.

Wow, this was a long post. If you got this far, thank you for your endurance (very impressive!). It is my prayer that the Lord will use this reading (at least in some measure) for your good. And if you comment – may that be for my good. Also, a little note on how things went with my friend. We discussed our differences , sought to better understand each other, prayed and hugged. Brotherly love – I love it!

A Personal Note

I deserve the fierce wrath of God forever. I certainly deserve to go to hell. My ongoing love affairs with the world, my spiritual pride, my lack of love for God and others, my impure heart and mind, my love of self, and a host of idols not to mention a long list of other intensely offensive sins all sentence me to everlasting punishment. However, Jesus became sin for me that, in Him, I might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5. 21). May I devote my life to the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal 2.20). I will never see the wrath I deserve! I am also thankful that I came to Jesus because the Father chose me (John 6.44). He gave me eyes that see Him (and consequently my sin as well). Only by His grace do I see that I deserve to go to hell. We must remember this as we prayerfully spread the Gospel to others.

I write this post as a SINNER saved by GRACE – GRACE that is GREATER than all my SIN. Amen.