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!

Advertisements

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!

ALL Lives Matter!

America is burning and the fires have many names I won’t discuss. We all can probably name them and each one of us probably has a ‘hot button’ or two; I know I have. What I will say is that ALL lives matter, black ones, white ones and every color in between. Soldiers serving our country and police serving our citizens (even the ones who want to kill them). Unborn babies matter, as do the mothers who don’t want them and the abortionists who carry out their murders. Self-serving politicians who care more about their careers and/or legacies than our country. ALL lives matter! Skin color just seems to be the #1 issue at the moment.

ALL lives matter because, as human beings, we were created as ‘image bearers’ of God (Genesis 1:26-31). At the same time, we are greatly flawed human beings; image bearers of God yet tragically flawed – by SIN. We have ALL sinned ‘in Adam’ (Romans 5:12), and we are ALL sinners in our conduct (Romans 3:23). In other words, we ALL sin because we’re sinners, and we’re ALL sinners because we sin.

My friends, SIN is still the problem and Jesus Christ is STILL the answer. It’s really that simple, although many will disagree. I’m talking about the Christ who died for our SIN (1 Cor 15:1-5), not for the many other reasons we like to talk about, like ‘our best lives now’.

Fellow believers, I guarantee you that those who perpetrate evil (of any kind) won’t address the sin problem – they love their sin (John 3:19). Sadly, there are a whole lot of professing Christians and alleged evangelical churches, who have the answer but won’t talk about sin.

What can we do about it? That’s easy. It’s up to us to join the conversation and ‘take it to the gospel’ – the gospel that has the subject of sin at the center and Jesus Christ as the only answer. Brothers and sisters, what an opportunity we have to do just that! America is burning and people are screaming for answers!

I’ll say it again. SIN is the problem and Jesus Christ is the answer!

Do we want racial reconciliation? Christ is the answer!

Do we want an honest government that cares for the Constitution and the people it serves? Christ is the answer!

Do we want stop all the crime and violence? Christ is the answer!

Do we want to see mothers stop killing their babies and abortion doctors put out of business? Christ is the answer!

Yes, America might be burning and yes, everyone has an opinion about what’s wrong. Most of the opinions miss the point and fail to get to the ‘root cause’. It’s time for us to join the conversation and ‘take it to the gospel’.

Are you with me?

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 3: The Sin Problem – How Bad Is It?

Having realized that the issue of sin is at the center of what’s wrong with the world and that it’s a very human problem, we need to ask “How bad is it?” If we know the answer, we can offer the best solution.

It’s like having a computer problem. Do I just have to many ‘toolbars’ trying to all load at the same time, or is there a problem so deep that I need to call the Geek Squad to fix things?

If we have a heart for sharing Jesus with others, what we understand about the inner problem of sin defines ‘how’ we share Jesus with others. If sin is a problem deep inside of us, where did it come from and again, how bad is it?

Most of us would agree that the problem of sin began when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. We would also agree that what followed their disobedience was physical death in this life and a separation from God. What we might not agree on is the nature of the ‘separation’ from God. Assuming that Adam’s sin affected all of mankind, does that mean that all human beings are born basically good with some flaws but are able to help themselves out of a pickle? Or does it mean that we are so messed up that we are totally unable to dig ourselves out of the ditch? What does the Bible say?

The Bible tells us that those with carnal minds (the only kind possible for an unbeliever) are actually in active rebellion against God and can do nothing to please God (Rom 8:7). The Bible also tells us that a person without the Spirit of God (all unbelievers) cannot understand the things of God and thinks they are a bunch of foolishness (1 Cor 2:14). And the Bible tells us that the ‘natural’ man is completely unable to approach God on his own (John 6:44 & 65).

If just having ‘capability’ issues isn’t bad enough, the Bible tells us that we aren’t just wounded, we are totally and completely ‘dead’ in our trespasses and sin, not that we are basically good and just ‘do’ bad stuff now and again (Eph 2:1 & 5, Col 2:13).

It’s not that we are as bad or evil as we could be, but that we are as bad off as we could possibly be when we live apart from Christ. After all, how ‘dead’ is dead? What can a ‘dead’ man do? (If those aren’t rhetorical questions, we have a problem.)

We probably don’t need Ralph Venning’s Sinfulness of Sin, or be able to explain the difference between a ‘trespass’ and a ‘sin’ at this point, but what’s really important is understanding and being able to talk about the depth of the problem of sin. That understanding will affect ‘how’ we share Christ with those who desperately need him.

So , armed with a biblically understanding of ‘spiritually dead’ and understanding that in essence, unbelievers are ‘dead men walking’, we can now move on to the next part of our short series, providing the solution to the problem of sin in a manner that honors God.

Sharing Jesus Part 1 – Starting a Conversation

Sharing Jesus Part 2 – The Sin Problem

What ABOUT Jesus Christ?

If we say ‘evangelism’ 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”, what about Jesus Christ are we to share? After all, there is much to share, is there not?

I’m glad you asked – it’s a great question! Given everything we are told in the Bible about Jesus, from Old Testament prophecy to New Testament fulfillment, from Jesus’ birth to his ascension, from the stories of his life, from his parables and teachings, from miracles he performed, what’s the most important fact about Jesus we need to share with others? In terms of evangelism, is there something more important than everything else we know about Jesus that we need to proclaim? I believe there is, and we are given a clue even before Jesus was born!

There’s a short passage in the 1st Chapter in Matthew in which we are told that Jesus’ earthly father Joseph was pondering the fact that Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant with a child not his and the cultural/social implications thereof:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt 1:18-21)

Our ‘evangelistic’ hint is this: She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Emphasis mine). Those few words, spoken by an ‘angel of the lord’ to a troubled Joseph, defined Jesus’ mission before he was born. So given that salvation from sin was Jesus’ mission for coming to Earth; shouldn’t the issue of ‘sin’ be central to our evangelism?

I hope that’s somewhat of a rhetorical question to you. It should be. If you are not yet convinced, let me tell you what the Apostle Paul said was of utmost importance in evangelism – how Paul defined the gospel.

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” 1 Cor 15:1-4 (Emphasis mine)

So What?

By now you might be asking that question. Maybe you are familiar with methods for sharing Christ that seem to be more about what Jesus offers in terms of abundant living, special purposes, or wonderful plans for your life. Perhaps you have never even sin talked about much from the pulpit in the church you attend. Well, regardless of what you might not have heard in your own Christian circle, the fact remains that Christ came to die for our sins. While there are great and wonderful promises for the child of God, they are all secondary to dealing with the issues of sin, repentance, and belief in Christ as our substitute on Calvary.

The purpose of this post is NOT to tell you to beat anyone over the head with a 25 pound Schofield reference Bible and scream “Repent or perish!” While “repent or perish” is an accurate statement, the purpose of this post is to remind us that in our ‘evangelistic’ encounters we need to take the ‘discussion’ to the issue of our sin. How that happens is up for grabs and subject to the leading of the Holy Spirit as we share Christ!

We just need to remember that we need to take the conversation to the “bad news” of sin that the “good news” of the gospel addresses.