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?
I have never watched a single episode of the TV series “The Walking Dead”, and I don’t recall buying or reading the comic book (graphic ‘novel’?). In fact, I don’t think I ever watched “Night of the Living Dead” back in the late sixties. I just thought that the movie (pictured above) was well, stupid (nothing personal). My opinion of the genre has never changed.
When I couldn’t remember listening to sermon series based on zombies, and having seen or hear a LOT of film based sermons, I decided to ‘Google’. I actually found some. After all, the concept of ‘the living dead’ is in the Bible! That’s right, the Bible talks about zombies! Who’d a thunk it? Check this out:
“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John 5:11,12
So you tell me I’m not right in the head because verse 11 is speaking about ‘eternal’ life, and ‘life’ in v. 12 refers back to that ‘eternal life’:
Grammatically speaking, you might be right. You might think that living apart from Jesus Christ just means living this life separated from God, or without a relationship with God. And we all see people we know are living a ‘good life’, temporally and materially speaking. Maybe you’ve already tried to witness to someone you know who is living that ‘good life’ without Christ and found it to be a challenge. After all, it’s easier to share Christ with someone NOT living a great life down here. Maybe you hesitate to share Jesus with those who seem to lack nothing in this world because the chances of ‘success’ (a decision) are slim.
I’m not sure how well the sermons I found with zombie themes presented the very serious predicament of those living apart from Christ. A few missed the point altogether, from what I read. Therefore, here’s a visual reminder of something the Bible says about everyone living apart from Christ:
Do you know any of these folks?
Food for thought. . .
Easy, you say. Evangelism is sharing a specific message that Christ died for the sins of men, while Christian apologetics is defending the Christian faith against all comers. 9Marks offers an excellent summary of this relationship.
- Difference 1: Evangelism is telling others the gospel. Apologetics is defending the truth of the Christian faith.
- Difference 2: Apologetics addresses everything from the existence of God to the reliability of the Old and New Testaments. In contrast, evangelism is telling one specific message: the good news about what Jesus Christ has done in order to save sinners.
- Difference 3: Another difference between apologetics and evangelism is that apologetics usually requires some level of intellectual sophistication. Apologetics can involve logical arguments, historical debates, philosophical discussions, interpretive disputes, and more. On the other hand, evangelism is simply telling others the message about Jesus Christ. That’s something every Christian—even a brand new Christian—should be able to do.
- The link: However, the two can be closely linked. Apologetic conversations can lead to good opportunities to share the gospel. And evangelistic conversations will often lead to apologetics when non-Christians respond with questions or criticisms that require a reasoned response.
- Bottom line: So, while Christians shouldn’t let apologetics distract us from sharing the gospel, we should also work to be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us about the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15).
Although I might be ‘preaching to the choir’ with this post, I thought a good reminder might be in order, based on recent experiences with a Facebook group I came across a few weeks ago. The purpose of group is stated as sharing the gospel and defending the faith (evangelism & apologetics) – both noble endeavors. Group members are encouraged to share their witnessing encounters with other faiths and encouraged to provide their favorite questions for challenging specific faiths/religions, i.e., Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, etc.
My main contribution to the group was that I share Christ with lost sinners in pretty much the same manner, irrespective of the religious persuasion. Begin or enter an ongoing conversation about spiritual matters, steer the discussion to the issue we ALL have with sin, and offer God’s solution through Christ. And of course I need be ready to engage in apologetics to defend the Christian faith. The gospel message is paramount, with apologetics running a close 2nd. That’s how I became unpopular with this particular group, whose zeal is to be commended! It seems that (I was told by the group ‘owner’) we need to refute the lies of other faiths to be able to share Christ
This morning I listened to a 45 minute encounter between a member of this group and a couple of JWs at a college campus (it sounded like one), in which the table manned by the JWs were offering free literature, and engaged the JWs in conversation. He went straight to the task of refuting JW teachings and was met by some excellent rebuttal from the JW viewpoint. In fact, if I were asked to ‘judge’ the quasi debate as an outsider, I would have to say that the JWs won. They were more articulate quicker with their Bible verses than our evangelistic brother was.
The whole thing was difficult to listen to due to it being a noisy campus venue, but I stuck it out for one main reason. I was waiting to hear something concerning the way manner in which a person finds salvation as a JW, compared to Christianity. In case you are wondering, the JW teaching is that salvation is based on faith plus works, while Christianity teaches salvation is by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone. That is what I was waiting for, but it never surfaced. There was an amiable parting of the ways at the end of the encounter.
False religions all have an element of works for salvation, so going to the issue of how anyone is saved is a good principle to follow. My own most memorable experience with JWs was when a couple came to the door of our apartment when we were stationed in Italy. I let them tell me about ‘The Kingdom’ and how to enter it according to their church and when the time seemed right I gently interrupted and told them I wanted to see if I understood them correctly.
“According to what you are telling me, I can make it to the Kingdom if I believe the right things and do the right things?” They were thrilled! Then I asked them to read, out loud, Ephesians 2:8-9, from their Bible ( I knew those passages had not been corrupted because I had a copy of their ‘New World Translation.):
“8By this undeserved kindness (grace) you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; rather, it is God’s gift. 9 No, it is not a result of works, so that no one should have grounds for boasting.”
That was it. They had absolutely no response. They had controlled the conversation, I asked them if I was understanding them, and then asked them to read to me from their Bible. The very passages they read out loud to me contradicted what they had been telling me. Hopefully, their silence and calm departure from my door meant that the Holy Spirit had begin to go to work.
So there you have two different encounters between Christians and Jehovah Witnesses. I hope they have been instructive. Let us hit the streets, travel the highways and by ways, share our faith with whomever God gives us the opportunity! And let us always endeavor to keep the simple the main topic of conversation!
Have a blessed day!
We’ve all seen them – the reports of such and such evangelistic event having resulted in X number of decisions for Christ or professions of faith. In recent days, another mark of success has become the number of ‘spontaneous’ Baptisms that occurred immediately after the preaching, if not the very next Sunday or first opportunity to engage in a little dunking.
And while there is nothing wrong about those reports themselves (if they accurately report decisions, professions, and dunkings), they are most often used to measure success in terms of actual salvations that occurred at the event to which they refer, from large stadium and megachurch events to small church events and everything in between. Events are successful based on numbers of ‘decisions’ and/or ‘professions’. The same sorts of statistics appear in short introductions to Christian authors and ads for their books.
The goal of personal evangelism isn’t to obtain a decision for Christ or hear a profession of faith. The goal of personal evangelism is for God to save His people from their sins. Therefore the goal of the ‘evangelist’ should be to faithfully present the gospel message that Christ died for our sins. (NOT our self-fulfillment, as do many these days).
And while you are praying for opportunities to share the gospel, don’t just pray for an open door, or favorable circumstances to share the message. Pray that God would open hearts to receive it – the Lydia prayer. If God opens a heart to hear the gospel, no power in Hell can stop it from being heard and received with a glad heart. Whatever resistance to the gospel might be seen initially seen, the mighty hand of God will overcome it and souls WILL be saved.
Blessings to you as you continue to share Christ with those around you who know him not!
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep”.
John 21:15-17 (ESV)
We know with the story:
7 of Jesus’ Disciples had returned to their previous occupation of fishing (for real fish instead of men), had fished all night and caught nothing. A man (Jesus) on the shore and called out to them and told them to toss their net on the right side of the boat instead of the left, which had not resulted in a single minnow, much less any fish. They obeyed and had such a haul they couldn’t get all the fish into their boat.
Once ashore, the man who had called out to them already had a good breakfast going and invited them to join him. It was then that they recognized their Lord. After a hearty breakfast Jesus took the opportunity to Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Naturally Peter answered in the affirmative all three times, and even might have wondered why Jesus asked so many times! We are not told. We are given Jesus’ direction to Peter after each answer:
“Feed my lambs.”
“Tend my sheep.”
“Feed my sheep.”
You might say that Jesus told Peter to become a sheep herder! He told him to take care of sheep, young ones and older ones. Has that ever happened to you? Read a story many times and suddenly something literally jumps out at you?
First of all Jesus said “Feed MY sheep. Those needing care and nurture belong to Christ, not to Peter, not a particular group of believers, but to Jesus himself! Pastors, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, you are to care for JESUS property! That knowledge should give you great pause, should it not?
Secondly, Jesus told Peter to “Feed my SHEEP, tending them and nurturing them to maturity. That should tell us in no uncertain terms the purpose of the church, Christ’s church, not yours. The mission of the church is the care and feeding of the sheep of God. Should ‘goats’ be invited and welcome in our churches? By all means! The main reason the church exists however, is for the ‘sheep of God’, not the’ goats of the world’.
I listened to one popular megachurch pastor tell his congregation one Sunday morning “This is the last Sunday this church is about YOU!” No kidding. While most of today’s so called ‘pastors’ won’t go quite that far, they ‘manage’ their churches with the same mindset, offering all sorts of ‘worldly’ enticements to make following Jesus a really cool/hip thing to do. But listen to what Jesus said to his disciples near the very end of his earthly ministry:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)
The ‘world’ in Jesus’ time hated him and the world in our time will hate us when we stand for the true gospel that Christ came to save men from their sin, not to fulfill their wildest dreams.
Then we have the Apostle Paul who, by his own admission, preached nothing but Christ crucified for the sins of men:
“For we (gospel messengers) are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2 Cor: 15-16)
In other words, the aroma of Christ is sweet to the ‘sheep of God’ but that same aroma of Christ smells like death and destruction to the ‘goats of the world’.
So why do we do what we do? We try to make Christ and his gospel smell sweet to the stony hearted unbeliever to get them through the doors and then tell them that Christ died for their self-fulfillment rather than for their sin. After all, we know that if we start talking about sin the ‘bait and switch’ will be on and oh so obvious to the goats you lured through the church doors. Unless God is doing a supernatural ‘heart work’, they’re walking and they ain’t coming back any time soon!
What’s the answer to this mess? Whether it’s a church setting or personal evangelism, it’s really quite simple.
1. Pray that God open hearts to hear the true gospel.
2. Preach the true gospel.
3. Leave the ‘saving’ to God.
by Pastor Gabriel Hughes, First Southern Baptist Church, Junction City, Kansas
Hot on the release of the mediocre film The Shack (18% approval rating by critics on Rotten Tomatoes, 6.8 viewer rating on IMDb), the book’s author William Paul Young has released Lies We Believe About God. It came out March 7, less than a week after The Shack hit theaters.
If there was any question about Young’s theology, this book leaves no doubt. Personally, I had no questions about what Young believes about God — it’s all in The Shack. But this hasn’t stopped scores of people from defending the book/movie as “just a story.” For example, rapper Lecrae, featured on the film’s soundtrack, defended it as just fiction and not theology, as though fiction gets a pass when it comes to the scrutiny God commands we are to give everything (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Aside from the fact that any talk about God is theology, Young has outright said The Shack is theology. In the forward to C. Baxter Kruger’s book The Shack Revisited, Young wrote, “Please don’t misunderstand me; The Shack is theology. But it is theology wrapped in story, the word becoming flesh and living inside the blood and bones of common human experience.” (This is the quote given in the WWUTT video on The Shack vs The Bible.)
Kruger returned the favor by writing the forward to Young’s book Lies We Believe About God. And it’s a really weird forward. It’s almost as if Kruger is saying, “I know the stuff you’re going to read in this book is kind of wonky, but I can verify that William Paul Young is still a Christian!” In actuality, Young in his own words exposes himself as a heretic. Again, we shouldn’t be surprised. He already did this in The Shack.
All of Young’s chapters in the book are “lies we believe about God.” There are 28 of them, chock full of man-centered doctrine. It’s not kind-of man-centered. It’s all man-centered. Here are ten of the titles of these chapters and the theology they contain. Again, the titles are all “lies” Young says most people believe about God.
“God is good, I am not.”
And again, I must emphasize Young believes this is a lie. He goes as far as saying that there are pastors who are allowed to stand in their pulpits and preach this lie that people are not good. Young has a tenuous relationship with the Bible. Sometimes entire chapters of his don’t contain a single verse. So we don’t know how Young deals with passages like Romans 3:12 which says, “No one does good,” or verse 23 which says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Young repeats the liberal theological trope that everything God makes is good, and since I’m made in the image of God, I am good. But he misses the reality of original sin: since Adam, we have taken that image and desecrated it with our sin, exalting ourselves in the place of God, and for that we deserve His holy and divine wrath. Jesus, the only good man there ever was, satisfied the wrath of God with His sacrifice on the cross. All who believe in Jesus will live. That gospel message does not exist in Young’s theology.
“God is in control.”
Yes, Young actually believes that God is not in control. He says, “God has the creative audacity to build purpose out of the evil we generate, but that will never justify what is wrong. Nothing, not even the salvation of the entire cosmos, could ever justify a horrific torture device called a ‘cross.'” Does Young just not know that the Bible addresses this very thing? Peter preached at Pentecost, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). God foreordains, but this in no way absolves men from the guilt of his evil acts. What we mean for evil, God always means for good (Genesis 50:20). We are responsible to turn from sin and to Christ for forgiveness.
“God does not submit.”
Young comes back over and over to the fact that we are created in the image of God and proceeds to draw false conclusions: Since I’m made in God’s image, whatever I’m like, God must be like that. Since I have to submit, then God also has to submit. Young also believes the Father submits to the Son. He does not. Young goes as far as saying God even has to abide by the golden rule: He treats us the way He wants us to treat Him. But Jesus serving us (Matthew 20:28) is not the same thing as submission. To submit means to yield to authority. We have no authority over God. Absolutely zero. The only person Jesus submitted to was His Father in heaven. He submitted to God and served us as the ultimate example of what it means to love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. This fulfills the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17, 7:12).
“God is more he than she.”
Young tells a very remarkable story about how his mother saved an infant child who then grew up to become an Anglican priest who tells Young’s mother that Young was right to make God in The Shack into a large black woman named Papa. Ugh. He took a true, very heart-felt and inspirational story, and turned it into something self-centered and pretentious. Young says God possesses feminine qualities (nurse, mother, etc.); therefore, He can be a woman, too. Again, it’s all man-centered and feelings-based, not biblical. God created man to be the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. The husband is to be a picture of Christ laying His life down for the church, the wife is a picture of the church submitting to Christ, and the head of Christ is God our Father (1 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 5:22-33). For all Young’s talk about “submission,” the one thing he doesn’t seem to want to submit to is the Bible.
“You need to get saved.”
Young says, “God does not wait for my choice and then ‘save me.’ God has acted decisively and universally for all humankind. Now our daily choice is to either grow and participate in that reality or continue to live in the blindness of our own independence. Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying!” He goes on: “Every person who has ever been conceived was included in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. When Jesus was lifted up, God ‘dragged’ all human beings to Himself.” He references John 12:32 which says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” It’s the favorite verse of all universalists, and it’s totally out of context. Previously in John 3:36, we read, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
“Hell is separation from God.”
Since Young has already revealed himself as a universalist, surely you know he doesn’t believe anyone goes to hell. In fact, he quotes Romans 8:38-39 which says nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God. Therefore, hell cannot be a place where we are separated from God. Rather, Young says, hell is God. It is “the continuous and confrontational presence of fiery Love and Goodness and Freedom that intends to destroy every vestige of evil and darkness that prevents us from being fully free and fully alive.” But Jesus said those who do not believe in Him and do the will of His Father in heaven will go away into eternal punishment at the final judgment (Matthew 25:46, Revelation 21:8). Hell is a real place that real people will be cast into unless they in this life repent of sin and follow Jesus Christ. The Bible could not be more clear.
“The Cross was God’s idea.”
Young says God didn’t come up with the cross — we did. Again, the Bible addresses this point. See above. The Bible foretold that Christ would be crucified centuries before crucifixion was even invented (Psalm 22:16). This is not because God looked down the tunnel of time and learned something about the future, as though God needed to learn anything. That is a pagan myth rooted in fortune-telling and soothsaying. God knows the future because He foreordained it.
“Not everyone is a child of God.”
This again is something presented in The Shack, that everyone is God’s child. Logically, if everyone is made in the image of God, and everyone is good, and everyone is going to go to heaven, then of course according to Young, everyone is a child of God. He takes out of context a passage from Ephesians 4 to back up his point. But he missed the one in Ephesians 2 that says before we come to Christ, we are children of the devil subject to the wrath of God (see also John 8:44). God adopts us into His family through Jesus Christ, and we become the adopted sons and daughters of God (Ephesians 1:4-5, Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:4-7, 1 John 3:1). Indeed, not everyone is a child of God. Only those who are followers of Jesus are children of God.
“Sin separates us from God.”
Again, we’re created in the image of God, and God doesn’t create anything bad. Sin, according to Young, “is anything that negates or diminishes or misrepresents the truth of who you are, no matter how pretty or ugly that is.” He then goes into a bunch of Osteenian affirmations of who the Bible says you are: “You are trustworthy! You have integrity! You are loving!” No, you’re not. The Bible says very specifically what sin is: “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). It is willful, open rebellion against the High King of the universe. Everyone has done it (Romans 3:23) and everyone deserves death for it (Romans 6:23). But the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord for all who believe. Those who are in Christ will turn from a life of sin and pursue the righteousness of God.
EDIT: Someone asked me if in the book Young said Jesus was guilty of sin. Not exactly. Young postulates that Jesus made mistakes, like He misspelled a word or hammered a nail in the wrong place. His definition of sin is actually too soft for him to say that Jesus sinned. He basically says you are capable of living the human experience perfectly like Jesus did. Sin is when we think less of ourselves than we really are. It’s still heresy because it’s works-righteousness and if we say we don’t sin His word is not in us (1 John 1:10). But Young doesn’t commit the added error of accusing Jesus of sinning against God.
“God is One alone.”
Young says that the God who “needs to be appeased, and failure is met by wrath and judgment” is a false one. Unfortunately for Young, that’s the God of the Bible, only it’s not the whole picture. He is indeed a God of wrath and judgment, but He is also a God of love and mercy. Young says those two things cannot co-exist. God says that they do (Exodus 34:6-7). He displays the full spectrum of His glory by saving for Himself the objects of His mercy, and pouring out judgment on vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Romans 9:22-23). God is eternally gracious toward those whom He has saved and adopted as His children. He is eternally wrathful toward those who have rebelled against Him and rejected His Son. Repent of your sin and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, and be saved from the coming judgment.
Young closes his book by presenting a quote from the god of The Shack, and says that’s the god he believes in. Quite literally, he says the god he believes in is the god he invented in his own story. The Shack is a story, and it is a lie from the heart of a liar. With this new book, Young set out to “expose” lies we believe about God. Instead, he presented a lot of lies he believes about God.
One of the most bizarre things I’ve heard recently from someone in a conversation about discussing ‘sin’ when we evangelize was the notion that talking about sin should be reserved for AFTER someone accepts Christ and in order to help new believers overcome sin(s) that seem to hang on. Even when knowing that Jesus died for our sins, don’t bring up the issue of sin until after someone accepts Christ. It’s only necessary to ‘love’ them into the kingdom.
It was really hard NOT to rebuke the individual who expressed that sentiment, but I’m sure she really meant it! Then I remembered a long time ago when I believed the same thing, and just as sincerely!
So what changed? A combination of things, I guess:
- Remembering the great big God I was taught as a young teen in Lutheran Catechism. A God who was more than just love.
- Reading Martin Luther’s ‘Bondage of the Will’.
- Reading Jonathan Edwards’ ‘Freedom of the Will’.
- Reading great authors and preachers who talked about the sovereignty of God in salvation.
- More than any of the above, reading and studying the Bible concerning the true state of fallen men.
There really was a time when I really believed I could just keep telling folks how much Jesus loved them and what great plans he had for them and some would finally catch on and run to Jesus. Another operating assumption – for NOT talking about ‘sin’ when trying to lead someone to Christ is that they might get offended and walk away. If/when we also believe that we need to make Jesus attractive to the lost sinner, we won’t mention that which would be offensive to them. I needed to keep the ‘love’ conversation going if I was going to help God save them!
On the other hand, when we realize, from scripture, that the lost are in love with their sin and hate God, but God opens hearts to the message of the Gospel (see Lydia in Acts 16), we become bold in our proclamation of it, including the offensive bits.
I’m reminded of an old commercial for a commercial bus line. “Go Greyhound and Leave the Driving to Us” I wonder if God isn’t trying to tell us, concerning our sharing of his Gospel: “Go with the Gospel and Leave the Saving to Me”
Food for thought?