Perhaps one of the best explanations of the Doctrines of Grace available for the average reader. My personal journey into Reformed theology began and still rests in Holy Scripture. During the journey I have of course consulted many other resources, including listening to an entire lengthy series of teaching concerning the History and Theology of Calvinism by Curt Daniel, available online free of charge. I had known just enough about Calvinism to hate him. I attribute that hatred to the worship of autonomous human free will. I will gladly entertain thoughtful questions.
This is an excellent treatment of this critical subject! – Dan C. It’s length, but worth a good read!
The Gospel and Politics
by John MacArthur
For us, as Christians in the United States, it’s easy to get caught up in all the political fervor. It can even be tempting to think that legislation is the key to solving the moral problems that plague American society. But is that a right perspective? John MacArthur addresses this important issue and underscores a biblical response.
There was a time (in the days of our Puritan forefathers), when almost every soul in America acknowledged the Ten Commandments as the cornerstone of ethics and morality. Today most Americans can’t even name three of the Ten.
There was also a time (not so long ago) when Americans universally disapproved of homosexuality, adultery, and divorce; they believed sexual promiscuity is absolutely wrong; they regarded obscene language as inappropriate; they saw abortion as unthinkable; and they held public officials to high moral and ethical standards. Nowadays, most of the behavior society once deemed immoral is defended as an inalienable civil right.
How times and the culture have changed! The strong Christian influence and scriptural standards that shaped Western culture and American society through the end of the nineteenth century have given way to practical atheism and moral relativism. The few vestiges of Christianity in our culture are at best weak and compromising, and to an increasingly pagan society they are cultic and bizarre.
In less than fifty years’ time, our nation’s political leaders, legislative bodies, and courts have adopted a distinctly anti-Christian attitude and agenda. The country has swept away the Christian worldview and its principles in the name of equal rights, political correctness, tolerance, and strict separation of church and state. Gross immorality—including homosexuality, abortion, pornography, and other evils—has been sanctioned not only by society in general but in effect by the government as well. A portion of our tax dollars are now used to fund programs and government agencies that actively engage in blatant advocacy of various immoral practices.
What are Christians to do about it?
Many think this is a political problem that will not be solved without a political strategy. During the past twenty-five years, well-meaning Christians have founded a number of evangelical activist organizations and sunk millions of dollars into them in an effort to use the apparatus of politics—lobbying, legislation, demonstration, and boycott—to counteract the moral decline of American culture. They pour their energy and other resources into efforts to drum up a “Christian” political movement that will fight back against the prevailing anti-Christian culture.
But is that a proper perspective? I believe not. America’s moral decline is a spiritual problem, not a political one, and its solution is the gospel, not partisan politics.
LESSONS FROM HISTORY
This is a lesson evangelicals ought to know from church history. Whenever the church has focused on evangelism and preaching the gospel, her influence has increased. When she has sought power by political, cultural, or military activism, she has damaged or spoiled her testimony.
The Crusades during the Middle Ages were waged for the purpose of regaining Christian control of the Holy Lands. Few believers today would argue that those efforts were fruitful. Even when the crusaders enjoyed military success, the church grew spiritually weaker and more worldly. Other religious wars and campaigns tinged with political motivation (such as the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, Cromwell’s revolution in England, and other skirmishes during the Reformation era) are all viewed with disapproval, or at best curiosity, by Christians today. And rightly so. The military and political ambitions of some of the Reformers turned out to be a weakness, and ultimately an impediment to the Reformation. On the other hand, the strength of the Reformation, and its enduring legacy, was derived from the fact that Reformation theology shone a bright spotlight on the way of salvation and brought clarity to the gospel.
Throughout Protestant history, those segments of the visible church that have turned their attention to social and political issues have also compromised sound doctrine and quickly declined in influence. Early modernists, for example, explicitly argued that social work and moral reform were more important than doctrinal precision, and their movement soon abandoned any semblance of Christianity whatsoever.
Today’s evangelical political activists seem to be unaware of how much their methodology parallels that of liberal Christians at the start of the twentieth century. Like those misguided idealists, contemporary evangelicals have become enamored with temporal issues at the expense of eternal values. Evangelical activists in essence are simply preaching a politically conservative version of the old social gospel, emphasizing social and cultural concerns above spiritual ones.
That kind of thinking fosters the view that government is either our ally (if it supports our special agenda) or our enemy (if it remains opposed or unresponsive to our voice). The political strategy becomes the focus of everything, as if the spiritual fortunes of God’s people rise or fall depending on who is in office. But the truth is that no human government can ultimately do anything either to advance or to thwart God’s kingdom. And the worst, most despotic worldly government in the end cannot halt the power of the Holy Spirit or the spread of God’s Word.
To gain a thoroughly biblical and Christian perspective on political involvement, we should take to heart the words of the British theologian Robert L. Ottley, delivered at Oxford University more than one hundred years ago:
The Old Testament may be studied. . .as an instructor in social righteousness. It exhibits the moral government of God as attested in his dealings with nations rather than with individuals; and it was their consciousness of the action and presence of God in history that made the prophets preachers, not merely to their countrymen, but to the world at large. . . .There is indeed significance in the fact that in spite of their ardent zeal for social reform they did not as a rule take part in political life or demand political reforms. They desired. . .not better institutions but better men. (Aspects of the Old Testament. The Bampton Lectures, 1897 [London: Longmans, 1898], 430-31)
LESSONS FROM SCRIPTURE
My point is not that Christians should remain totally uninvolved in politics or civic activities and causes. They ought to express their political beliefs in the voting booth, and it is appropriate to support legitimate measures designed to correct a glaring social or political wrong. Complete noninvolvement would be contrary to what God’s Word says about doing good in society: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10; cf. Titus 3:1-2). It would also display a lack of gratitude for whatever amount of religious freedom the government allows us to enjoy. Furthermore, such pious apathy toward government and politics would reveal a lack of appreciation for the many appropriate legal remedies believers in democracies have for maintaining or improving the civil order. A certain amount of healthy and balanced concern with current trends in government and the community is acceptable, as long as we realize that that interest is not vital to our spiritual growth, our righteous testimony, or the advancement of the kingdom of Christ. Above all, the believer’s political involvement should never displace the priority of preaching and teaching the gospel.
There is certainly no prohibition on believers being directly involved in government as civil servants, as some notable examples in the Old and New Testaments illustrate. Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon are two excellent models of servants God used in top governmental positions to further His kingdom. The centurion’s servant (Matt. 8:5-13), Zaccheus the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10), and Cornelius the centurion (Acts 10) all continued in public service even after they experienced the healing or saving power of Christ. (As far as we know, the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus also remained in office after he was converted [Acts 13:4-12].)
The issue again is one of priority. The greatest temporal good we can accomplish through political involvement cannot compare to what the Lord can accomplish through us in the eternal work of His kingdom. Just as God called ancient Israel (Ex. 19:6), He has called the church to be a kingdom of priests, not a kingdom of political activists. The apostle Peter instructs us, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
Jesus, as we would expect, perfectly maintained His Father’s perspective on these matters even though He lived in a society that was every bit as pagan and corrupt as today’s culture. In many ways it was much worse than any of us in Western nations has ever faced. Cruel tyrants and dictators ruled throughout the region, the institution of slavery was firmly entrenched—everything was the antithesis of democracy. King Herod, the Idumean vassal of Rome who ruled Samaria and Judea, epitomized the godless kind of autocratic rule: “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men [concerning the whereabouts of the baby Jesus], was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under” (Matt. 2:16).
Few of us have experienced the sort of economic and legal oppression that the Romans applied to the Jews of Jesus’ day. Tax rates were exorbitant and additional government-sanctioned abuses by the tax collectors exacerbated the financial burden on the people. The Jews in Palestine were afforded almost no civil rights and were treated as an underprivileged minority that could not make an appeal against legal injustices. As a result, some Jews were in constant outward rebellion against Rome.
Fanatical nationalists, known as Zealots, ignored their tax obligations and violently opposed the government. They believed that even recognizing a Gentile ruler was wrong (see Deuteronomy 17:15, “You may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother”). Many Zealots became assassins, performing acts of terrorism and violence against both the Romans and other Jews whom they viewed as traitors.
It is also true that the Roman social system was built on slavery. The reality of serious abuses of slaves is part of the historical record. Yet neither Jesus nor any of the apostles attempted to abolish slavery. Instead, they commanded slaves to be obedient and used slavery as a metaphor for believers who were to submit to their Lord and Master.
Jesus’ earthly ministry took place right in the midst of that difficult social and political atmosphere. Many of His followers, including the Twelve, to varying degrees expected Him to free them from Rome’s oppressive rule. But our Lord did not come as a political deliverer or social reformer. He never issued a call for such changes, even by peaceful means. Unlike many late twentieth-century evangelicals, Jesus did not rally supporters to some grandiose attempt to “capture the culture” for biblical morality or greater political and religious freedoms.
Christ, however, was not devoid of care and concern for the daily pain and hardships people endured in their personal lives. The Gospels record His great empathy and compassion for sinners. He applied those attitudes in a tangible, practical way by healing thousands of people of every kind of disease and affliction, often at great personal sacrifice to Himself.
Still, as beneficial and appreciated as His ministry to others’ physical needs was, it was not Jesus’ first priority. His divine calling was to speak to the hearts and souls of individual men and women. He proclaimed the good news of redemption that could reconcile them to the Father and grant them eternal life. That message far surpasses any agenda for political, social, or economic reform that can preoccupy us. Christ did not come to promote some new social agenda or establish a new moral order. He did come to establish a new spiritual order, the body of believers from throughout the ages that constitutes His church. He did not come to earth to make the old creation moral through social and governmental reform, but to make new creatures holy through the saving power of the gospel and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. And our Lord and Savior has commanded us to continue His ministry, with His supreme priorities in view, with the goal that we might advance His kingdom: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).
In the truest sense, the moral, social, and political state of a people is irrelevant to the advance of the gospel. Jesus said that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).
THE REAL BATTLE
We can’t protect or expand the cause of Christ by human political and social activism, no matter how great or sincere the efforts. Ours is a spiritual battle waged against worldly ideologies and dogmas arrayed against God, and we achieve victory over them only with the weapon of Scripture. The apostle Paul writes: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
We must reject all that is ungodly and false and never compromise God’s standards of righteousness. We can do that in part by desiring the improvement of society’s moral standards and by approving of measures that would conform government more toward righteousness. We do grieve over the rampant indecency, vulgarity, lack of courtesy and respect for others, deceitfulness, self-indulgent materialism, and violence that is corroding society. But in our efforts to support what is good and wholesome, reject what is evil and corrupt, and make a profoundly positive impact on our culture, we must use God’s methods and maintain scriptural priorities.
God is not calling us to wage a culture war that would seek to transform our countries into “Christian nations.” To devote all, or even most, of our time, energy, money, and strategy to putting a façade of morality on the world or over our governmental and political institutions is to badly misunderstand our roles as Christians in a spiritually lost world.
God has above all else called the church to bring sinful people to salvation through Jesus Christ. Even as the apostle Paul described his mission to unbelievers, so it is the primary task of all Christians to reach out to the lost “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me [Christ]” (Acts 26:18; cf. Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9). If we do not evangelize the lost and make disciples of new converts, nothing else we do for people—no matter how beneficial it seems—is of any eternal consequence. Whether a person is an atheist or a theist, a criminal or a model citizen, sexually promiscuous and perverse or strictly moral and virtuous, a greedy materialist or a gracious philanthropist—if he does not have a saving relationship to Christ, he is going to hell. It makes no difference if an unsaved person is for or against abortion, a political liberal or a conservative, a prostitute or a police officer, he will spend eternity apart from God unless he repents and believes the gospel.
When the church takes a stance that emphasizes political activism and social moralizing, it always diverts energy and resources away from evangelization. Such an antagonistic position toward the established secular culture invariably leads believers to feel hostile not only to unsaved government leaders with whom they disagree, but also antagonistic toward the unsaved residents of that culture—neighbors and fellow citizens they ought to love, pray for, and share the gospel with. To me it is unthinkable that we become enemies of the very people we seek to win to Christ, our potential brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Author John Seel pens words that apply in principle to Christians everywhere and summarize well the believer’s perspective on political involvement:
A politicized faith not only blurs our priorities, but weakens our loyalties. Our primary citizenship is not on earth but in heaven. … Though few evangelicals would deny this truth in theory, the language of our spiritual citizenship frequently gets wrapped in the red, white and blue. Rather than acting as resident aliens of a heavenly kingdom, too often we sound [and act] like resident apologists for a Christian America. … Unless we reject the false reliance on the illusion of Christian America, evangelicalism will continue to distort the gospel and thwart a genuine biblical identity…..
American evangelicalism is now covered by layers and layers of historically shaped attitudes that obscure our original biblical core. (The Evangelical Pulpit [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993], 106-7)
By means of faithful preaching and godly living, believers are to be the conscience of whatever nation they reside in. You can confront the culture not with the political and social activism of man’s wisdom, but with the spiritual power of God’s Word. Using temporal methods to promote legislative and judicial change, and resorting to external efforts of lobbying and intimidation to achieve some sort of “Christian morality” in society is not our calling—and has no eternal value. Only the gospel rescues sinners from sin, death, and hell.
HT: Pulpit Magazine
“The Parable of the Sower; why did the Lord Jesus give us that parable? Why, but to stir me up to serious inquiry and diligent examination so as to discover which kind of a “hearer” I am. In that parable, Christ likened those who hear the Word unto various sorts of ground upon which seeds fall. He divided them into four different classes. Three out of the four brought no fruit to perfection. That is exceedingly solemn and searching. In one case the Devil catches away the good seed out of the heart (Luke 8:12). In another case, they “for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13). In another case, they are “choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). Are you, my reader, described in one of these? Do not ignore this question. We beg you: face it honestly, and make sure which of the various soils represent your heart.
But there are some “good ground” hearers. And how are they to be identified? What did the infallible Son of God say of them? How did He describe them? Did He say, “that on the good ground are they who rest on the Word of God and doubt not His promises: are thoroughly persuaded they are saved, and yet go on living the same kind of life as previously”? No. He did not. Instead, He declared, “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).
Ah, dear readers, the test is fruit: not knowledge, not boasting, not orthodoxy, not joy, but FRUIT: and such “fruit” as mere nature cannot produce. It is the fruit of the Vine, namely, likeness to Christ, being conformed to His Image. May the Holy Spirit search each one of us.”
~ Arthur Pink, “The Doctrine of Assurance”
So, How’s YOUR hearing? How’s MINE?
In Part 1 of this series of articles, Be Available, we shared real examples of how doors seem to just ‘open up’ for sharing the message of the gospel, and what can happen when there’s a willing and available gospel messenger ‘on location’.
In Part 3, Our Duty, Our Great Privilege, Our Highest Calling, the focus was on understanding the nature of the believer’s role in sharing Christ with the world around us.
This fourth article of the series has to do with maintaining a heartfelt burden for the lost around us, thus the title “How’s Your Weep?” That title came to mind thinking about something that happened quite some time ago (30 years?) in Ft. Ord, California.
I was attending the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, CA studying Polish and living on Ft. Ord. I had connected with the Ft. Ord chapel community and was involved in a small group weekly Bible study. During one of those evening studies (I don’t remember the exact topic), one of the young soldiers in attendance, with a look of sadness in her eyes, uttered a very simple yet profound statement:
“I’ve lost my weep!”
She was talking about her burden for lost souls. Something in our discussion that evening had triggered her sentiment. She seemed to have realized in that moment that while she once had a deep burden for the lost, for some reason it had gone by the wayside. Determined to find it again she took time off from work to get alone with God and learn to ‘weep’ again.
Hers was not an uncommon experience with Christians. We remember a time when we shared our faith, not only with excitement over what God has done in saving us, but also with a heartfelt burden for the lost with whom we live and work every day. That burden comes from knowing and understanding the dire straits of all who are living apart from Christ – “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is how the great theologian, Jonathan Edwards described it.
Then ‘life’ happens and our burden for lost souls diminishes. Perhaps it’s the hectic pace of our jobs or scholastic endeavors. Family situations might demand more and more of us. Our social lives and desire for acceptance often distract us. And of course, there’s the possibility that some of those with whom you would share Christ are complete jerks! (in temporal terms). And the list of distractions (excuses?) can go on and on forever
Then one day you realize, like the young lady at our Bible study, that something is wrong. Sure, you share Jesus with others, but without the intense burden you once had for their souls. Maybe you’ve never experienced such a burden. So how can you find what you lost? How can you discover what you might never have had?
You can get away and get alone with God, like the young lady at our Bible study. You can pray and get into the word. Those are rather broad suggestions. Can we narrow it down a bit? We’ll try.
First, revisit and remember your own condition before you encountered Jesus as your savior and lord. Apart from Christ we were:
- Dead in trespasses and sin, disobedient, under Satan’s control, concerned only with our own passions, and by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3)
- Enemies of God and unable to please God (Romans 8:7-8)
- Unable to even understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14)
- Slaves of sin (John 8:34)
- Already condemned (John 3:18)
That’s the short list, trust me. REALLY reflect on your condition apart from Christ. Read those passages in context. Let it sink deep into your mind and heart. That was YOU, that was ME! We were completely and utterly hopeless! (Ephesians 2:12).
Did it sink in? REALLY sink in? When it does. . .
Now take ALL of that and apply it to the lost all around you – to co-workers, family and friends, acquaintances, passersby. Even if they’re jerks.
As a final note, we’re not saying you must have a deep concern for or physically weep over lost souls to be an effective witness for Christ. Far from it. But just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37-39), and Paul had a great love and burden for his fellow Jews (Romans 9:1-9), a genuine heartfelt burden for those to we share Christ will add a sincerity that will be unmistakable to the ears and hearts of our hearers!
Blog Post – Replacing Worry with the Right Focus
— Read on www.gty.org/library/blog/B121126
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
The Light of the Gospel
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (1 Cor 4:1-4, ESV)
Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth were meant to deal with specific issues facing the young church. His first letter dealt with destructive divisions in the church, along with issues of immorality and carnality in the church. His second letter dealt, at least in part with having to answer the criticisms of false teachers who openly opposed him. In the short passage above Paul speaks of three things, his ministry, the gospel he preached being veiled (hidden) from some hearers, and ‘blind’ minds incapable of understanding the gospel.
We will briefly discuss each of these, in the order presented, with an eye to their application to personal evangelism.
The Apostle Paul
“But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Cor 4:2)
In this verse Paul renounces of disgraceful underhanded ways, asserts his refusal to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word in presenting the gospel, and reaffirms his intent to merely speak the plain truth of the gospel. Paul’s message to this church, as well as to the others he planted was simple – “Christ and him crucified” for the sins of men. (1 Cor 2:1-4) No slick marketing campaigns, house to house surveys, or twisting of scripture in order to please itching ears.
A Veiled Gospel
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.” (2 Cor 4:3)
Here Paul, at his hypothetical best, tells us that if the message of the gospel is “veiled”, or hidden from anyone it would be those are who are “perishing” in their sin, Jesus referred to these unbelievers as “condemned already”. (John 3:18). Nowhere does Paul ever tell us not to preach the gospel, but he does tell us that the gospel we preach very likely won’t be understood by some of our listeners. Talk about a tough job! There’s an answer to that problem, and we’ll get to it.
“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:4)
Here Paul tells us exactly WHY unbelievers cannot understand the gospel message. Their minds have been completely blinded to the spiritual truths underlying the message! Not only that, we are told that the one who has blinded the minds of unbelievers is “the god of this world”, or Satan himself! In John 12:31, he is called “the prince of this world.” In Ephesians 2:2, he is called “the prince of the power of the air.” And in Ephesians 6:12, the same bad influence is referred to under the names of “principalities, and powers,” “the rulers of the darkness of this world,” and “spiritual wickedness in high places.”
How should that impact personal evangelism?
1. Stick to the message – stay on point. And the whole point of the gospel message is that Christ died for the sins of men. Don’t sugar coat it. The gospel is a bad news/good news story. Present the problem (sin) followed by the solution (Jesus Christ).
2. Realize that there are those from whom the good news is veiled, or completely hidden. They cannot even understand it (1 Corinthians 2:14). Trust God to open hearts to hear it, understand it, and receive it.
3. Recognize that it is Satan who has blinded the minds of everyone who has yet to believe in Christ. We would probably equate having a ‘blind mind’ with a complete inability to process information. By all means use kind and persuasive speech as you share an ‘offensive’ truth, but let God open cold and spiritually dead hearts to hear and be saved.
The Church is More Essential than a Hospital: Responding to Criticisms
— Read on pastorgabehughes.blogspot.com/2020/04/the-church-is-more-essential-than.html
Today Christians remember the day that their Savior died on a cross at Mount Calvary, finishing the work that He was sent here to accomplish – to die for and save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Three days later, Christ rose from the dead, leaving an empty tomb, displaying the power and glory of God, both in Christ’s resurrection and foreshadowing the raising of spiritually dead sinners to new life in Christ.
Just a few comments – food for thought about what it all means:
John 3:16 – 19
16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”
Let’s break that down, beginning with the most memorized passage in all of the New Testament.
16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
This verse tells us that those who believe in The Son will have eternal life. What are we to believe about the Son? In Mark 1:15 Jesus told his listeners to “..repent and believe the gospel.” The Apostle Paul defines the gospel quite clearly in 1 Corinthians15:1-4:
1“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures
“17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
The Son’s first coming into this world was to save sinners who repent and believe the gospel. His second coming will be as the righteous judge of the whole world. (Matthew 24:30; Revelation 19)
18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
This verse tells us that those who have repented of their sin and believed the gospel are not now condemned, nor will they be condemned at the judgment. It also tells us that those who have not repented of their sins and believed in the Son stand condemned already, even as they live and breathe.
“19And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”
This verse tells us WHY so many have not repented of their sin and believed in the Son. They love the darkness in which they live, in which we all once lived. They love the darkness BECAUSE their deeds are evil. Would it be a stretch to say that they LOVE their sin, or would it be a strikingly logical conclusion?
The really BIG question is, “Have you repented of your sin and believed the gospel?” Are you safe in the arms of Christ, or do you stand ‘condemned already’ before a just and holy God?
Those are questions between you and God. Do not take them lightly. Don’t answer me, answer Him.
In Part 1 of this series of articles, Be Available, we shared real examples of how doors seem to just ‘open up’ for sharing the message of the gospel, and what can happen when there’s a willing and available gospel messenger ‘on location’.
This article focuses on understanding the nature of the believer’s role in sharing Christ with the world around us. Bear in mind that God, being GOD, is able to save lost sinners in any way He chooses to do so, with, or without our involvement. At the same time, it’s important to remember that God has not only provided for the salvation of His people (through Christ); he has chosen the means by which he saves lost sinners. – the preaching of the gospel (sharing Christ). This means that fur you and me (and all believers) sharing Christ with a lost world is at least three things; Our Duty, Our Great Privilege, and Our Hignest Calling!
18And Jesus came and said to them (the disciples), “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mathew 28:18-20)
You might be thinking that there is no command for personal evangelism in the above passage of scripture, I beg to differ. Jesus’ command, to ‘make disciples’, by its very nature requires sharing the message of the gospel. Disciples are only produced from saved; blood bought sinners. Jesus disciples (followers) were commanded to make disciples of those were already believers and preach the message of the gospel to those still lost so that they could then be made into disciples.
Our Great Privilege
God not only provided the way of salvation of His people in the death and resurrection of His Son, He also decreed the means whereby men are saved.
13“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ 14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:13-15)
The above passage is crystal clear. Those who call on the Lord will be saved. Calling on the Lord means believing in Him. To believe they must first hear the good news (evangel). For them to hear, someone must preach Christ to them. Those who share the good news are ‘sent’ by God to do so.
Dear friends, WE ae among those who are sent to share the good news! The Great Commission was given specifically to Jesus’ immediate disciple, but it was meant for all believers for all time.
God has chosen to use flawed you and me to share His perfect message of salvation! How is that NOT the greatest privilege bestowed on God’s children?
Our Highest Calling
I recently read an article in a local newspaper about an F/A-18 Super Hornet weapons system officer who was actually the first female pilot to bomb ISIS from an F/A 18. Here is how she described ISIS and her role in the bombing:
“They are a horrible crop of humans, with an utter disregard for human life,” she said. “To witness that, day in and out, to witness mass murder, you have such an understanding. I’d trained for so long to protect innocent people on the ground, and when I saw that violated, and to finally use my skills to do that and use weapons, there is no higher calling.” (Emphasis mine)
With no disrespect to either a fine Naval officer or anyone who fights global terrorism, I have to confess that the immediate reaction of this old soldier was “But there IS a higher calling!” – to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world around us, and often hostile culture in which we live.
In many churches these days much is made of living our best lives now, discovering our special purpose for our time on planet Earth, and even achieving our ‘dream destinies’. Friends, I suggest to you that all of those things are merely temporary at best. I also suggest to you that our duty and great privilege to share the good news of Jesus Christ with a lost world, and the eternal consequences at stake (heaven and hell), define the great commission as the highest calling a blood bought child of God has received from heaven!
Last week, I was in the middle of my early morning indoor cycling routine and skimming through Facebook. I came across a FB post that had as a very sincere comment, the following:
“We are to invite people to the Banquet in Heaven.
Evangelism is 3 parts:
1. Determine if they are lost or saved.
Do you know or hope you will go to Heaven?
2. Plan of Salvation.
3. INVITE THEM to Heaven!
Years ago I witnessed to a man but did not invite. I attended his funeral. I wished I had invited him.
Last year I invited a man. 2 weeks later his daughter called and said he had died.
I have peace. I hope he is in Heaven, if he is not it is because he chose to reject JESUS.
Popular Preachers who speak against sinner’s prayer and altar calls are pharisees causing cowardice. I witnessed to an Atheist. Told him TODAY you will accept or reject JESUS, or reject HIM, told him the consequences of each choice. He said:
“I really don’t want to reject JESUS.”
I left the following reply, hoping to start a discussion with “Bob” (not his real name):
1. It’s not our job to ‘determine’ whether a person is saved or not.
2. I believe that it’s the Holy Spirit who issues the invitation. We might speak words of invitation, but the Holy Spirit opens hearts dead in sin to answer the invitation and causes them to respond.
2. I believe we are to invite them to Christ for the forgiveness of sin, which IS an invitation to heaven!
First of all, know that I’m not bashing “Bob”. There was a time I shared a lot of “Bob’s” approach to evangelism. The desired discussion has yet to take place. I’m still praying. I want to ask “Bob” WHY he placed so much emphasis on the need to issue “invitations”, although I think I know. He felt badly when he had witnessed to but NOT issued an invitation (to Heaven), but at peace when he witnessed AND gave an invitation. You see, if a personal invitation is NOT given and the ‘witnessee’ dies and ends up in hell, at least some of the blood is on the hands of the ‘evangelist’. If an invitation is given and the receiver of the invitation rejects Jesus and dies, the ‘evangelist’ bears no guilt. He can breathe easy. He did his job.
I believe such an approach to be faulty, and for the reasons I stated in my reply to “Bob”.
1. It’s not our job to ‘determine’ whether a person is saved or not. That’s God’s business. The best we can do is find out what a person thinks his/her eternal destiny might be and go from there. We could be speaking to a genuine believer who lacks assurance of salvation for one reason or another. Besides that, there are a LOT of folks who are SURE they are heaven bound, but for the wrong reasons. Still, at the end of the day, only God know who is/isn’t saved. We are to proclaim the gospel to everyone – saved folks need to hear it again also.
2. I believe that it’s the Holy Spirit who issues the invitation. We might speak words of invitation, but the Holy Spirit opens hearts dead in sin to answer the invitation and causes them to respond. (See Lydia in Acts 16). When God has opened a heart to hear, that heart WILL eventually hear and a sinner will be saved.
2. I believe we are to invite them to Christ for the forgiveness of sin, which IS an invitation to heaven! I have yet to find an “invitation” to Jesus (or “Heaven”, for that matter. What I find is a command to “repent and believer the gospel”, given by Jesus himself.
Concerning “Bob’s” assertion that those who do not use the “sinner’s prayer” or have altar calls are cowardly Pharisees…well, some might be, but many might not be. That was completely uncalled for. They might not use either in their evangelistic efforts simply because neither one is used anywhere in the New Testament. There certainly might be a call to face one’s sin, repent and come to Christ, but no specific reciting of the sinner’s prayer as a mandatory act. “Altar calls” are a human invention that started with “the anxious bench” in Charles Finney’s day.
What’s the point of all this? It’s simple.
God is sovereign in the salvation of sinners!
Comments are encouraged.