The Gospel Mandate

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.“” – Mark 1:14-15 (Emphasis mine)

According to any good dictionary the word ‘mandate’ is defined as an official order or commission to do something. We are told in the Gospel of Mark that after Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, and after John was arrested, Jesus entered Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God. We are even given the words of Jesus’ initial proclamation:

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Here we have Jesus saying at the beginning of his earthly ministry “repent and believe in the gospel”. Since Jesus said it, let’s agree that it’s ‘official’. Since Jesus is telling listeners to ‘do’ something, let’s agree that what we have is an ‘order. Therefore, the gospel mandate is simply to repent and believe it. That’s it.

Interestingly, and perhaps sadly, most of today’s evangelism no longer follows Jesus’ simple mandate, but we have substituted all sorts of other ‘methods’. We have hand raisings (with all eyes closed of course) an altar calls. Have you ever wondered why everyone is asked to close their eyes but everyone is watching and applauding folks heading toward the altar?

To spark their interest in Jesus we tell people that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for them. Cool! Well, I love me to and have a wonderful plan too! God and I are on the same page!

Since God has such wonderful plans for folks, we ask them if they wouldn’t like to ‘ask Jesus into their heart’ or we ask them to just ‘give their heart to Jesus’. Those two seem to get great results at any Christian kids’ camp or VBS. For older types who might be more thoughtful about the whole thing, we tell them that Jesus is ‘knocking at the door of their heart”, pleading to get in and the only doorknob is on their side, Never mind that the passage in question has Jesus knocking on the door of the church.

We might even pull out our little cards or Bibles and walk them through the Romans Road, ask for a simple ‘decision’ (and perhaps a signature in the little Bible), and pronounce them ‘saved’ when a decision is made and a dated signature properly inserted.

No matter what method we use, and we use them all, we hardly ever use the simple ‘mandate’ that Jesus used. We never begin where Jesus began. Why do you think that is? Is it because the word ‘repent’ is outdated and politically incorrect? After all, it might make someone feel bad. Are we hesitant about telling people to ‘believe the gospel’ because we are uncomfortable explaining it, or because we ourselves don’t know or aren’t sure what it is? ,

Whatever the reason(s), we needn’t be afraid of just proclaiming what Jesus proclaimed. After all aren’t we fond of the expression “What would Jesus do?” Although I can think of occasions when WWJD becomes rather cliché, this isn’t one of them. At the same time, we need only remember that God saves his sheep and we can’t/don’t ‘help’ God save anyone. Remember Jonah and what he proclaimed after having been tossed into the sea, after being swallowed by a great fish and being barfed onto the beach?

“…with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!”Jonah 2:9 (Emphasis mine)

Our mission isn’t to obtain ‘decisions for Jesus’, it’s to be faithful in prayerfully presenting the gospel. Our prayer is that God will open hearts to hear and the gospel is that Christ died for our sins. There is great encouragement in knowing that all I have to do is be able to discuss what it means to repent and believe. And if I have faced my own sin head on and believed in the One who took my place on Calvary, it’s not a hard thing to do.

A wise man once said:

“Long ago I ceased to count heads. Truth is usually in the minority in this evil world. I have faith in the Lord Jesus for myself, a faith burned into me as a hot iron. I thank God, what I believe I shall believe, even if I believe it alone.” C.H Spurgeon, October 16th, 1887

Essential Facts About the Unconverted

If we desire to share Christ effectively with the unbelieving world around us, we need to know what the Bible tells us about the ‘natural’ man. We don’t need any touch feely platitudes about the state of unbelievers, we need to know what God has to say about them. Forget for a moment what you might have heard about unbelievers wanting and seeking God and let the Bible speak:

1. They are dead in trespasses and sins.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins . . . and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

2. They are living under current condemnation.

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18)

3. Their unbelieving, fleshly minds are blinded by Satan, hostile to God, and they can do nothing to please Him.

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)

“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. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom 8:7-8)

4. They are lost.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

5. They slaves are of sin.

“Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34)

6. In all this, they KNOW God exists.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of 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. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Rom 1:18-20)

7. Although the unbeliever knows God exists, he still doesn’t seek Him:

as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 1no one understands; no one seeks for God.”” (Rom 3:10-11)

Not exactly what we hear most often about the state of the unbeliever, is it? Given the really dire state of the unbeliever, what are we to do? We remember that it is God who saves and who has given us the great privilege of sharing Christ with those who, by nature, hate Him and don’t want him. Remember Lydia in the book of Acts, Chapter 16. She was with a group of women by a river one day when the Apostle Paul showed up. We are told that God opened Lydia’s heart to pay attention to what Paul had to say (Acts 16:11-15) and she was saved that day. It takes a supernatural act of God to open the hard open heart to hear and receive the message of the gospel. We are to be faithful in the telling of the good news! Continue to pray that God would open hearts and keep planting the seeds of the gospel.

‘The Carl Hatch Squeeze’

What Evangelism Isn’t

It was mentioned in an earlier post that personal evangelism is not primarily leading someone to make a decision for Christ or pray the sinner’s prayer, although decisions are made for Christ and prayers are prayed. In the same post one of the definitions of evangelism was:

“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.” – Alistair Begg, Crossing the Barriers

I was listening to a radio interview recently in which I heard about something called ‘The Carl Hatch Squeeze’. I gathered from the interview I listened to that in certain evangelical circles, the Squeeze is considered an approved method for increasing one’s ‘soul count’. Without further ado, here’s the ‘The Carl Hatch Squeeze’.

When, in an evangelistic encounter, it was time to ‘close’ the deal and obtain a decision for Christ’ by asking ‘Do you want to pray the sinner’s prayer?’, and the answer was ‘no’ (and it happens a lot), Carl would ask if he could just pray with the person for a minute. In many cases a NO answers to the sinner’s prayer question turned into YES to a general prayer. Carl, with a hand on the person’s shoulder and a gentle squeeze, would then pray and ask God if He would help the person be a better husband, friend, worker, or a number of other ways we all want ‘be’ better. He would also include material blessings we all yearn for. The ‘mark’ (can I say that?) would be in total agreement with the ‘general’ prayer. Carl would then ask the sinner’s prayer question again. Many an initial NO became YES, Carl could claim another soul for the Kingdom, and all was well.

Or was it? I’ll let you be the judge.

What are your thoughts?

What IS the Great Privilege?

I’m so glad you asked!

For the believer in Christ, the child of God, the great privilege is to have been chosen by God to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost and dying world around us; our families, friends & co-workers, as well as other fellow travelers along this path we call life.   Some call it ‘personal evangelism’, which is a good an honorable ‘task’ statement, but one that also can be a bit intimidating,

One might also hear that the sharing of the gospel message is a ‘duty’, and indeed it is. Some would even say that this duty falls primarily to pastors, evangelists, and other specially gifted folks. I would suggest that the proclamation of the gospel is both a duty and a privilege of all who claim to be Christians.  I further suggest that the ‘privilege’ aspect of personal evangelism has been highly underrated, if recognized at all. And while I believe that to be true, I am also convinced that if/when the idea of personal evangelism as ‘the great privilege’ is incorporated into the regenerated mind and heart, the amount of personal evangelism taking place will increase exponentially.

Exactly how the sharing of the gospel message is transformed from just a duty (and a pleasant one at that) to the greatest privilege bestowed by God upon his children is, I think, a matter of understanding the message itself, the state of fallen man and his need for the message, and the sovereignty of God in the saving of fallen man.

Those are the topics we will attempt to explore and discuss at this site.  They will be addressed in the context of living in a culture that is becoming increasingly hostile to all things Godly.

Stay tuned, my friends!.

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”