Presuppositional Apologetics and Personal Evangelism

Sounds rather ominous, doe it not? Really deep stuff! Well, not necessarily. First, let’s define our terms.

“Presuppositionalism is a school of Christian apologetics that believes the Christian faith is the only basis for rational thought. It presupposes that the Bible is divine revelation and attempts to expose flaws in other worldviews. It claims that apart from presuppositions, one could not make sense of any human experience, and there can be no set of neutral assumptions from which to reason with a non-Christian”.[i]

 To evangelize is to present Christ Jesus to sinful people in order that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they may come to put their trust in God through Him.”[ii]

We all have presuppositions, certain beliefs or assumptions with which we enter discussions. They frame our thoughts about a matter as well as our argument. In matters of personal evangelism, it means that we believe what the Bible tells us about ourselves as human beings, as well as what it has to has to say about lost sinners. We let those truths guide us in our sharing of the good news.

So, what does the Bible tell us about ourselves as human beings? For me, the two most significant facts are found in Romans, Chapter 1.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of (fallen) men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” (Rom 1:18-19) Emphasis mine.

First, since fallen men are full of ungodliness and unrighteousness, they are subjects of God’s wrath. Secondly, fallen men know that God exists, yet the suppress the truth in their unrighteousness. In other words, God doesn’t believe in atheists.

With that truth in mind, what else the Bible have to tell us about those with who we desire to share the gospel? We’ll share just a few.

1. They don’t seek God.

 “As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” (Rom 3:10-11)

2. They hate God and can do nothing to please him.

For the mind that is set on the flesh (the only mind the sinner has) is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom 8:7-8) Emphasis mine.

3.  They cannot, in and of themselves, even understand the gospel!

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor 2:14)

“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)

 

So how does this affect our evangelistic efforts? There are several ways:

1. If all of us, by nature, already know that God exists, we do not have to ‘prove’ the existence of God. In fact, some would suggest that if we engage in proving the existence of God to an unbeliever, we are presenting a ‘case for God’ and making the unbeliever the ‘judge’.

2. If it’s true that the unbeliever is living in rebellion against the God he/she knows exist, that person by nature also hates God’s gospel. We are actually presenting the gospel to someone who doesn’t want to hear it.

3. If it’s also true that the unbeliever, in his/her natural state, cannot even understand the message of the gospel why do we present it at all?  I tell you why I do.

You see, along with believing what the Bible says about us as fallen creatures (our presuppositions), I also believe that God saves all those whom he has chosen to save in exactly the same manner (another presupposition). Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into a long dissertation about the doctrine of salvation. But I do believe that there are two ‘steps’, if you will, in God’s saving of sinners.

1. God opens hearts to hear the gospel.

2. God sends a messenger to present the gospel to that divinely opened heart.

Do you remember Lydia in Acts, Chapter 16? Paul and company went down to a river outside of Philippi looking for a place of prayer and there was a small group of women already gathered there. Paul spoke to them and we are told:

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” (Acts 16:14) (Emphasis mine.)

In short, God opened Lydia’s heart to hear the gospel, sent Paul as his messenger to present that gospel and Lydia was baptized (along with her household) and invited Paul & company to stay at her house!

 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” (Acts 16:15)

We don’t need to be told specifically that ‘Lydia was saved that day’; the text speaks for itself. God had a purpose ion opening her heart and God’s purposes cannot fail.

So, what does that mean for personal evangelism? It means that we have the great privilege to be God’s ‘gospel’ messengers. Our job is to ‘get the gospel right’ (Christ died for our sins) and share it with others. Our prayer for the lost is simple. “God, open their hearts to hear.”

We don’t need to try and pry open hard hearts with clever presentations. We don’t even need to ask people to open their own hearts. They can’t. That’s God’s business. Unless God opens a heart to hear the truth of the message, our words are just words. But when God opens a sinner’s heart and the gospel is heard, salvation happens.

In summary, presuppositional apologetics –  believing what God says about fallen men and believing what we are told about how God saves sinners actually simplifies our evangelism. Our ‘work’ is knowing and being faithful to the gospel message (See 1 Cor 15:1-5) and being available to share that message as God leads us. No tricks, no gimmicks. We’re not ‘salesmen’. We’re simply messengers. It is God who saves sinners!


[i] John Frame, 2006

[ii] Alistair Begg, Crossing the Barriers

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Joy in Heaven

When does all of heaven rejoice?

“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:7

Notice that it does not speak of rejoicing in heaven over someone who ‘accepts Jesus’, ‘invites Jesus into their heart, or ‘gives their heart to Jesus’. That should be significant to all that of us who share Jesus with a lost world.

I’ll leave it to you to figure it out. When you think you’ve got it, p,ease feel free to comment!

Food for Thought About the Gospel

“Sinners must hear the gospel, they must believe the gospel, and they must embrace the gospel.” – John Macarthur

“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” – Phil 1:15 – 18, The Apostle Paul

From John Bunyan’s Conclusion to ‘Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners’

Of all tears, they are the best that are made by the blood of Christ; and of all joy, that is the sweetest that is mixed with mourning over Christ. Oh! it is a goodly thing to be on our knees, with Christ in our arms, before God. I hope I know something of these things.

I find to this day seven abominations in my heart:

(1) Inclinings to unbelief.

(2) Suddenly to forget the love and mercy that Christ manifesteth.

(3) A leaning to the works of the law.

(4) Wanderings and coldness in prayer.

(5) To forget to watch for that I pray for.

(6) Apt to murmur because I have no more, and yet ready to abuse what I have.

(7) I can do none of those things which God commands me, but my corruptions will thrust in themselves,
‘When I would do good, evil is present with me.’

These things I continually see and feel, and am afflicted and oppressed with; yet the wisdom of God doth order them for my good.

(1) They make me abhor myself.

(2) They keep me from trusting my heart.

(3) They convince me of the insufficiency of all inherent righteousness.

(4) They show me the necessity of fleeing to Jesus.

(5) They press me to pray unto God.

(6) They show me the need I have to watch and be sober.

(7) And provoke me to look to God, through Christ, to help me, and carry me through this world. Amen.

________________

Grace Abounding To the Chief of Sinners is John Bunyan’s spiritual autobiography. In it he tells of his conversion and struggle with faith. He wrote it while he was imprisoned for preaching without a license. His main issue was a kind of “spiritual obsessive compulsive disorder” as one reviewer puts it. Bunyan was constantly concerned about the state of his salvation and whether God deemed him worthy enough for eternal life. This story communicates the author’s anguish over his sin, his confession, and the life-changing impact of God’s saving grace. Bunyan’s spiritual struggles will remind readers that even the great minds of faith had issues with belief, and his personal testimony will encourage anyone who is doubting the status of their salvation.

A PDF copy of Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners can be downloaded from Christian Classics Ethereal Library..

Why do we do this?

I have a serious question. 
Have you heard anyone beginning a testimony with anything like ‘Ever since I repented of my sin and believed in Christ. . .’?
I haven’t, not lately. They always begin with somethimg like:

‘Since I gave my heart to Jesus. . .’

‘Since I accepted Jesus. . .’

‘Since I received Christ. . .’

‘Since I chose Christ. . .’

Why is that?

We Recognize No One According to the Flesh

by Mike Riccardi

Source: The Cripplegate

from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

2 Corinthians 5:16–17

Paul speaks about regeneration in this passage. If anyone is in Christ—if anyone has become united to Jesus Christ by saving faith in the Gospel, if anyone has died to sin and self in union with the One who died to sin once for all—he is a new creation. Working backwards, from cause to effect, the second half of verse 16 notes that the very first result of regeneration is a new view of Christ. As unbelievers, we all once regarded Christ from a fleshly point of view, according to worldly standards, paying special attention to the way things looked outwardly and externally rather than internally and spiritually. But the regenerate regard Him in this way no longer. When Almighty God issues His sovereign decree for light to shine forth in the heart that is dead in sin, when the eyes are opened and the ears unstopped, when the heart of stone becomes a heart of flesh, the first thing that changes is the sinner’s view of Christ. We see Him for who He is, in all His beauty, glory, and suitableness to our need.

Working backwards even further to the first half of verse 16, Paul speaks of a second result of regeneration. Not only does the regenerate sinner have a new view of Christ, but he also has a new view of everyone else. When we’re transformed from the inside out in regeneration, and our assessment of Jesus changes, so does our assessment of everyone else in the world.

The Wrecking Ball of Regeneration

In regeneration, the entire person is renovated. The old things have passed away; new things have come—in every aspect of our life. Murray Harris says, “When a person becomes a Christian, he or she experiences a total restructuring of life that alters its whole fabric—thinking, feeling, willing, and acting.” John MacArthur writes, “Old values, ideas, plans, loves, desires, and beliefs vanish, replaced by the new things that accompany salvation. . . . God plants new desires, loves, inclinations, and truths in the redeemed, so that they live in the midst of the old creation with a new creation perspective.” In other words, when you become a new creation in Christ, all your ambitions and your hobbies and your joys—everything about you—are like a building that has been leveled to the ground by the wrecking ball of regeneration. And in its place is an entirely new creation, built by the Spirit of God on the foundation of Christ, with new tastes, new affections, and new joys, and new ambitions!

New Canons of Appraisal

And along with all of that newness comes new ways of assessing other people, new canons of appraisal, new standards according to which we arrive at our estimation of people. Just as Paul once knew Christ according to the flesh—just as he once esteemed or appraised or evaluated Him according to the world’s preoccupation with the outward appearance—so also he “recognized” or “regarded” or “viewed” or “appraised” or “valued” other people according to the flesh as well. “But,” he says, “from now on”—that is, since the time of his regeneration and conversion to Christ—“from this point forward, we recognize no one according to the flesh.” By definition, then, the one who has become a new creation in Christ has put off those fleshly canons of appraisal which judge men only on the basis of superficial, external matters.

This is a lesson the church needs to learn. It’s an especially valuable lesson for us given the aftermath of the U.S. Presidential election, and the tensions that exist in American society today. Far too often, Christians have not distinguished themselves from the unregenerate in their personal standards of judgment and evaluation of others. Virtually instinctively and subconsciously, we regard men and women according to the flesh. We appraise people on the basis of their physical attractiveness, their style of dress, their educational achievement, their social status and level of “success,” their political affiliation. And one of the saddest truths concerning the visible church is that so many professing believers still allow their opinions of others, as well as their understanding of their own identity, to be shaped by the color of their skin.

eyeBut the Holy Spirit of God, by virtue of the inspiration of 2 Corinthians 5:16–17, tells us that none of those things has any place in the mind of the one who has been regenerated and united to Christ. None of them. They are not the basis by which we evaluate others, and they are not the sources from which we derive our own identity. No, in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek.” In Christ “there is neither slave nor free.”

Neither Jew nor Gentile

Think about what a radical statement that is from the pen of Saul of Tarsus. This was the most promising young rabbi in Jerusalem, educated under Gamaliel, supervising the persecution and execution of Christians. This is the one circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; a Pharisee, a persecutor, and blameless according to the ceremonial law. Time was when his only canon of evaluation was whether or not someone met the strict Pharisaical standards of Mosaic ceremonialism. If he did, he was a brother. If he didn’t, he was a dog. And now: “There is neither Jew nor Greek.” What happened?

I’ll tell you what happened: Regeneration happened. The one who boasted in his eighth-day circumcision says: “For neither is circumcision anything, nor [is] uncircumcision [anything]; [the only thing that matters is] a new creation” (Gal 6:15). Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised: doesn’t matter. Your ethnicity doesn’t matter. Your religious rituals don’t matter. What matters is whether or not there has been a new creation. What matters is: Is this person regenerate or not? Is he united to Christ or not? Is he a child of God or not? Does he stand yet in need of forgiveness of sins or not?

Colossians 3:10 and 11: Paul says we’ve laid aside the old self, and have put on the new self (the old has gone and the new has come, 2 Cor 5:17). And that new self is “being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all and in all.”

See, the regenerate person has been so dominated by Christ that the only point of reference for his view of anyone is whether or not they are in Christ. The new view of Christ that is born in those who have been made a new creation necessarily issues in a new view of others.

And this reaches even to the level of family. Someone lets Jesus’ know his mother and brothers were waiting to speak with him. His response is just stunning: “But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother’” (Matt 12:48). Jesus regarded no man or woman after the flesh. Not even His own family. What mattered is whether or not they believed in Him.

The Blood of Christ is Thicker than Water

Nationalism means nothing. You have a deeper connection to true Christians in Iraq, in Iran, in Syria, in Afghanistan, than to any unbeliever in America.

Ethnicity is nothing. You have a more intimate union with genuine believers who are black, white, Asian, Hispanic, than to any unregenerate person who shares the color of your skin.

Even family, in comparison to Christ, is nothing. Jesus says He has a thicker bond with the children of God than He does even with His own mother!

Now, of course, that doesn’t mean that national citizenship doesn’t exist, that ethnicity is somehow erased, or that familial ties vanish. But all of those things are absolutely inconsequential in determining one’s status before God or his place within God’s kingdom. They are not how we see others, and they are not how we see ourselves. We regard no man after the flesh. We are not those who take pride in appearance rather than in heart (2 Cor 5:12).

Where this really intersected for Paul was how the false apostles were persuading the Corinthians to regard him after the flesh—to look down upon him and judge him accursed because of how severely he suffered in the cause of ministry. But Paul says, “Those who are truly united to Christ have been born again! They’ve been totally renovated! Entirely renewed! And as a result, they don’t judge men and ministries on the fleshly basis of external appearance, of outward success, of worldly power and prestige! If they did, they’d have to judge Christ and His cross to be a failure!” Paul’s saying, “The false apostles are judging me the same way I used to judge Christ—after the flesh—and in so doing they reveal that they have not experienced the transformation of regeneration that marks all those who are united to Christ in saving faith.”

And brothers and sisters, we make the same error anytime we look at a man or woman and allow their appearance, their résumé, their political affiliation, or their skin color to determine our estimation of them, rather than the state of their heart before God. In our time, when accusations of racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and other epithets are being hurled back and forth, may Christ’s people live out the reality of their regeneration, and regard no one after the flesh.

Sinner, Save Thyself!

Say what?????

We all (Calvinists and Arminians) vehemently DENY that anyone caves himself/herself! And that is as it should be. At the same time, aren’t we asking sinners to save ‘themselves’ when at an altar call, accompanied by emotional music, we say things like:

  • Only YOU can open the door to YOUR heart.
  • God has done his part, now you need to do YOURS.
  • Will YOU accept Jesus as your Savior?
  • Won’t YOU give YOUR heart to Jesus right now, tonight, before it’s too late?
  • Why don’t YOU to surrender YOUR heart and life to Jesus?

While we would loudly deny that anyone saves themselves, we ask, or tell, sinners in the seats, or with whom we are sharing the gospel) to ‘do’ something that will usher in eternal life. Think about it from the perspective of the one to whom the message of the gospel has been presented, wither in a group or individual setting.

I’m a sinner who knows little of the things of God and I have just been told that Jesus came to save me and give me eternal life. Then I receive one or more of the above statements and/or questions respond positively to it/them. I am welcomed into the Kingdom of God.

With very little logic involved, I conclude that by my action, I just saved myself! After all, I performed the final action in a sequence of actions leading to my salvation, didn’t I?

I have to say that a friend of ours came to that very conclusion in a conversation with my wife one evening in our home. And at the same time, I have to confess that the above statements and questions could lead anyone on the receiving end to come to the same conclusion unless persuaded otherwise.

The question I now ask is “Why do we ask and/or say things that might bring unnecessary confusion to our hearers?” There are several possible answers to that question, and I’ll leave those to your imagination.

Rather, I suggest that none of the above questions and statements is actually Biblical. You might think they express Biblical concepts, but you won’t see any of them in any evangelistic encounter in the New Testament. Instead you hear about repentance and belief; repentance from sin and belief in Christ as the substitute for sinners. And you hear it first from the lips of Jesus when, at the beginning of his ministry he said:

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15V)

If it is God who opens hearts to hear the gospel and also who does all the ‘saving’, we need only be faithful to the message that Christ died for our sins and be able to explain what that means. Trust me, God WILL save his people from their sins!

Sharing Jesus Part 5 – The Response

So far we have discussed with our friend ‘Pat’ the problem of evil in the world and the source of that problem in Adam’s sin against God. We discovered that the root cause of the evil deeds of men is also called sin and that it’s a problem we all have, again thanks to Adam rebelling against God. We also discovered that God presented a solution to the problem of the human sinful nature, in the person of Jesus Christ, his own Son, whom he sent to die on behalf of those who would repent of their sin and believe the message of the gospel – that Christ died for the sins of men. The message of the gospel requires a response.

Understand that as you approach the need for responding to the gospel, you and Pat are standing on ‘Holy Ground’. Approach the moment with much prayer – prayer that the Holy Spirit will let you know when the moment has arrived, and prayer that God will continue his supernatural work of drawing Pat to the foot of the Cross.

Be gentle, and don’t apply any pressure. Don’t ‘push’ for a response. That means forget emotional appeals. Let God do HIS work. It’s entirely possible that in the course of your conversation Pat might have privately trusted in Christ for salvation but just not told you. You might have to part ways before getting to a response. Don’t fret. God began the work in Pat and will bring it to pass.

With that in mind, and as one pastor (Allistair Begg) suggests, a couple of simple questions for your friend might be appropriate:

1. Based on what we’ve been talking about have you personally trusted Christ or are you still on the way?

If God has already brought Pat to a place of repentance and belief, you will find out and you can rejoide together. If you hear something like “I guess I’m still on the way.” You might ask:

2. How far along the way are you?

It’s a simple question that will require some thought to answer. Maximum sensitivity is needed here! (Satan hates this and will try and disrupt things.) Real difficulties in peoples’ lives sometimes surface. Your friend might want to go and think about it. Don’t push. Say something like “If you must leave, that’s fine.” Continue the conversation!

3. If you hear “I’m pretty far along the way, you can something like:

“Would you like to become a real Christian and be sure of it? Remember, you are standing on holy ground at that moment. When the answer is “yes”, you need to add one more thing to the conversation before leading in a prayer of response.

The last part of the conversation before a response should be about cost of becoming a Christian. Very few ‘methods’ ever talk about this all important subject. With the goal of obtaining a ‘decision’ for Christ, many of us charge right ahead without even mentioning it. However, obtaining decisions isn’t our goal. Our only goal is that a lost sinner repents of sin and genuinely trusts in Christ for salvation.

You can say something like “The moment you become a Christian, you MUST become a Christian. Are you ready for a revolution? To say no to sin, self, and secrecy?”

If God has done His work, the answer will still be ‘yes’. You might be asked to explain what the ‘revolution’ would look like. Be ready to lovingly share passages of scripture that talk about some of the ‘challenges’ facing the Christian who is open about his/her faith ((Matt. 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). Be familiar with , which talks about the attitude of the world system toward Christians. The one whom God, not your clever speech, has brought to the Cross of Christ will be inwardly readya for the challenge.

It’s then that you can lead in a serious and solemn prayer:

“Dear Lord Jesus, I admit that I’m a helpless sinner before you. I’ve tried to clean up my act so many times and failed. I believe that the Bible is true when it says that you are the savior for my sin. I’ve considered the revolution that will come. I ask you to come forgive me of my sin and enable me to turn from sin and turn in faith to you. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Give me a desire for your Word and to share the good news with others. Number me among those who are your own. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Be mindful that a prayer like the above example is not part of a ‘formula’ for or ‘method’ of evangelism. Such a prayer is a response to a message that by nature demands a response. Such a prayer summarizes the conversation that has been going on for days, or weeks, or perhaps months. Therefore the content of the prayer is what’s important. It restates the problem (sin), the solution to the problem (Christ’s substitutionary death), and contains a personal plea for mercy and forgiveness, trusting that God will make good on his offer of salvation.

Also remember that the ‘Amen’ at the end of the prayer is just the beginning for the one who has now cast himself/herself upon the mercy of God and believed in Christ for salvation. There is now new life in a new creation in Christ, for the Bible tells us:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Cor 5:17

And finally, be ready to walk with a new believer and help him/her grow!

Christian songwriter and musician called this new life in Christ “The Great Adventure”. It’s a great description of what awaits the believer:

The Great Adventure

Saddle up your horses

Started out this morning
In the usual way
Chasing thoughts inside my head
Of all I had to do today
Another time around the circle
Try to make it better than the last

I opened up the Bible
And I read about me
Said, I’d been a prisoner
And God’s grace had set me free

And somewhere between the pages
It hit me like a lightning bolt
I saw a big frontier in front of me
And I heard somebody say, “Let’s go”

Saddle up your horses
We’ve got a trail to blaze
Through the wild blue yonder
Of God’s amazing grace

Let’s follow our Leader
Into the glorious unknown
This is a life like no other
This is the great adventure, yeah

Come on get ready
For the ride of your life
Gonna leave long faced religion
In a cloud of dust behind
And discover all the new horizons
Just waiting to be explored
This is what we were created for, yeah

Saddle up your horses
We’ve got a trail to blaze
Through the wild blue yonder
Of God’s amazing grace

Let’s follow our Leader
Into the glorious unknown
This is a life like no other
This is the great adventure

We’ll travel over, over mountains so high
We’ll go through valleys below
Still through it all, we’ll find that
This is the greatest journey
That the human heart will ever see

The love of God will take us far
Beyond my wildest dreams, yeah
Oh, saddle up your horses
Come on, get ready to ride

Saddle up your horses
We’ve got a trail to blaze
Through the wild blue yonder
Of God’s amazing grace

Let’s follow our Leader
Into the glorious unknown
This is a life like no other
This is the great adventure

Come on, this is the great adventure
Saddle up, saddle up your horses
We’ve got a trail to blaze
Through God’s amazing grace!

Sharing Jesus Part 1 – Starting a Conversation

Sharing Jesus Part 2 – The Sin Problem

Sharing Jesus Part 3 – The Sin Problem: How Bas Is It?

Sharing Jesus Part 4 – The Solution

Sharing Jesus, Part 4: The Solution to the Sin Problem

Armed with a biblically understanding of ‘spiritually dead’ and understanding that in essence, unbelievers are ‘dead men walking’, and knowing that our friend ‘Pat’ realizes that the issue if sin is the root cause of evil in the world, we can offer Pat the solution to the problem of sin in a manner that honors God.

Since the conversation is reaching ‘critical mass’ there are a few important things to remember.

First of all, pray that God would open Paul’s heart to receive this all important part of the message of the gospel. Secondly, remember that God alone saves and you are just the messenger. It’s not your job to get a decision or otherwise ‘close the deal’ – the Holy Spirit does a fine job of applying the solution to a God opened heart! As one evangelist expressed it:

“Christ is going after His lost sheep, and He wants to use our lips that they may hear His voice today, and our hands that they may feel His touch. He is the soul-winner. People are not won by us for Him. They are won through us by Him. He can win them without us, just as He can speak to them through the Bible quite apart from anything we might say. But He has chosen to work through us and with us.”     Leith Samuel

Spend a few moments going over a few things with Pat. You might want to briefly summarize where the conversation has gone up to this point:

  • The world is full of ‘bad stuff’ (evil).
  • The Bible calls the bad stuff ‘sin’.
  • Sin is a human problem that began when Adam blew it and disobeyed God.

Once you and Pat are on the same page it’s time to address the solution. You might want to ask Pat what he/she thinks is the answer to the problem. The answers you receive might be good answers even if they are just about temporal things like passing more laws, doing a better job of raising our children, raising the quality of our schools, easier access to higher education, and/or government programs to get rid of poverty. If so, talk about them, acknowledge that they might solve problems, but that they are only external answers and cannot really address the inner problem of sin that we all have.

This is a good place to introduce, in simple terms and directly from the Bible (not a 25 lb. Schofield reference Bible, but the small one you tend to carry around with you), God’s plan for dealing with sin. Be gentle! This is a conversation, not a used car lot!

Here are some suggested passages of scripture that were all written by the Apostle Paul. You can even introduce some or all the following scriptures by telling Pat that this guy named ‘Paul’ who absolutely loved to kick Christians around all over town wrote them! Make sure to tell Pat how each passage relates what you have already discussed.

The problem:

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Rom 3:23

The natural consequences of the problem:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord..” – Rom 6:23

God’s plan to punish his own Son in our place:

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Rom 5:8

The applications of God’s plan – believe and call on the name off the Lord:

“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Rom 10:9

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Rom 10:13

The result of believing and calling on the name of the Lord:

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Rom 5:1

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Rom 8:1

The above passages are by no means a set method that must be followed. You might want to use other passages of scripture that also talk about the problem of man’s sin and God’s solution. John 3:16 is a good example and a passage we probably all know by heart. It also expresses God’s solution to our problem.

Always anticipate questions, and be ready with an answer or willing to find an answer. Be able to talk about the Biblical context of passages you use in the conversation. This communicates that you didn’t just memorize a few passages, but you know and are convinced of the truth of scripture. That’s huge!

In the next post we’ll talk about the response to God’s offer.

Sharing Jesus Part 1 – Starting a Conversation

Sharing Jesus Part 2 – The Sin Problem

Sharing Jesus Part 3 – The Sin Problem: How Bas Is It?

Sharing Jesus Part 2 – The Sin Problem

This is the second of several short articles about sharing Jesus in a normal and natural manner that is not dependent on a specific ‘method’. In Part 1 of this short series of posts, we talked about starting a conversation that can lead to sharing Jesus and the message of salvation with a family member, friend, co-worker, or anyone for that matter. The goal of the conversation was to arrive at the conclusion that the reason people do bad things is because they have an inner problem that the Bible calls ‘sin’.

Sharing Jesus – Part 2, The Sin Problem

Before we start talking about ‘sin’ let’s give our conversation partner a name. We’ll call him/her ‘Pat’ (good gender neutral name).The next step in the conversation we are having with ‘Pat’ is to define the extent of this ‘sin’ problem. And just like we asked a lot of questions when we started the conversation (the Colombo technique), we’ll continue our discussion with another question:

“So ‘Pat’, what do you think sin is?”

The first answer you will get will most likely have to do with bad things we do and/or mistakes we make, which is the most immediate and natural response. You might get the same answer from the vast majority of believers, but that’s another post.

You might also hear that sin means NOT doing things we ought to do. We do have a natural sense of what the ‘right’ thing to do would be at certain times, but we fail to do it.

And since we left off the first part of our conversation agreeing that we all have an ‘inner problem’, you might even hear an answer that talks about our natural selfishness and/or inner tendencies. And that, my friends, is where we want to go now – the sinful human nature, or tendency to sin. Once you’re there, you can ask the big WHY question:

“So Pat, since you have rightly recognized that we have an inner problem, a natural tendency to do bad stuff, and sometimes to NOT do what we know would be right, WHY do you think we have a natural tendency to sin?”

It’s the natural and logical next question. Regardless of the response, this is the opportunity to discuss what the Bible has to say about the WHY. We did the same thing earlier in the conversation when we said that the Bible calls man’s inner problem ‘sin’. And remember that you are sharing the ‘Christian worldview’ and not trying to convince Pat of your personal opinion. Just share what the Bible has to say and let God do the convincing. It would be good if you have a Bible handy to share straight from scripture.

In sharing what the Bible says about our sin problem, you can take it all the way back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the story of creation and the fall of man. After all, that’s where our sin problem started – when the first couple disobeyed God. The point is that God created everything good, and it went sour because of man’s disobedience. Adam’s sin impacted the ‘nature’ of every human being born since then.

Regardless of what we think about the fairness of Adam’s sin affecting the rest of the human race, it did. We are told several things about the ‘natural’ man that describe him in rather ‘dark’ terms.

The entrance of sin into the world rendered the human heart deceitful beyond all things[i] and desperately sick, the human mind blind to spiritual things,[ii] hostile to God[iii], and unable to please God.[iv]

It’s really important for us who share Jesus with others and for those listening to our message to grasp just how bad the sin issue is. It’s in knowing just HOW bad the bad news is that we can most fully understand and appreciate the good news of what God has done in sending his Son to die for OUR sins. The main point about sin is that it’s more than what we do or don’t do, it’s part of our very nature as sons of Adam.

Sadly, much of today’s ‘evangelism’, both in churches and person to person, minimizes the real issue of our sin problem and in some cases, omits it entirely. We would rather attract sinners to Jesus with our ‘changed lives’ rather than speak the truth about our bondage to sin while trusting God to open stone cold hearts and effectually draw men to the cross. Are our lives irreversibly changed when we have trusted in Christ for forgiveness of our sins and in his death on our behalf? Of course they are, but as a result of the cross, not as the reason for believing in Jesus.

And once the reality of sin has, with the help of the Holy Spirit, sunk into Pat’s heart, the conversation can move on to the consequences of, and a solution to the problem. Stay tuned for Part 3.


[i] “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “Jer 17:9

[ii] “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

[iii]“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” Rom 8:7

[iv] “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.. Rom 8:8