A Light View of Sin

Each week day I drive through a small town on my to and from work. For the past month or more, this sign has been in the yard of a church building. Even with good content, having a message board can be more of a burden than a benefit – it takes work and diligence to keep truth in a short message updated often enough so people notice. But when the message is wretched, one wonders why it is there at all.

Sin like a credit card

While it’s true that sin can seem enjoyable – what value would temptation be to Satan if the end product was rightly portrayed? – it is a biblical fact that we are to hate sin, not enjoy it. Paul addressed this in teaching how abundant God’s grace to towards His children, far greater than our sin, and then asking the rhetorical question:  Romans 6:1-2 (HCSB)  What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply?  Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Does the apostle’s instruction seem more biblical than that of the church board in the picture? Again, the apostle –  2 Corinthians 5:21 (HCSB)  He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Knowing this, that Christ Jesus took our sin upon Himself, for them on the cross and was the object of God’s wrath that was due us, how can we abide a professing man of God who tells us to be cavalier towards sin?

Enjoy it now, pay for it later? It was PAID IN FULL on the cross! We add to the debt we owe Him every time we sin. It’s too often when we diligently seek to pursue Christ, how much more wretched would our track record be if we thought we were supposed to enjoy sin? Let the lyrics of this old hymn pierce your heart and mine. May we NO LONGER be at peace with our sin – or those who tell us to enjoy it! Let us not grow weary in well doing, but press on toward the prize that will not tarnish and be done with lesser things!

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
’Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
’Tis the long expected prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it:
’Tis a true and faithful Word.

Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning,
Foes insulting his distress:
Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed!
See Who bears the awful load!
’Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man, and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost.
Christ the Rock of our salvation,
Christ the Name of which we boast.
Lamb of God for sinners wounded!
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on Him their hope have built.

Is Your Wife Your First Ministry?

Is Your Wife Your First Ministry?

At DefCon, we holistically support men who support their families. Men who make discipleship and love a priority for the home. The home is one of the central building blocks for a society, and the marriage is the sun by which everything in the home orbits. Having said this, there are many priorities that pastors, open air preachers, and everyday christian men have that may sometimes burden us. We can become anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed with the multiple obligations that we are to tend to. And yes, wives are included in this list of feelings. And the one thing that is not helpful are Christian cliches like, “Your wife is your first ministry.” It has a nice ring to it, and for the most part it is well meaning, but it does not properly convey the responsibilities and obligations a Christian may face on a day to day basis. It has also been abused by certain preachers that wish to exclude certain men from ministry.

I have attached a blogtalk episode that I and a pastor friend of mine recorded about this topic. My hope is that we would all take into consideration the biblical model of men not just in ministry, but just being men in general. All the material discussed in this episode may or may not reflect all the views of contributing bloggers here at DefCon. Here is the narrative and link of the episode below.

“On this exciting episode of G220 radio, George will be joined by Pastor Tom Shuck from Pilgrim Bible Church. Pastor Shuck is a graduate of Master’s Seminary and Columbia Evangelical Seminary and was a missionary to India for 12 years. He holds both a Masters of Divinity (MDiv.) and a Doctorate of Ministry (DMin.). He has been a pastor of Pilgrim Bible Church for 4 years and helped start a seminary in India as well as planted a church there. He enjoys sports, music, family trips, and George’s personal favorite, linguistics. He has evangelized in cities like Oakland, Orlando, Mumbai, Pune training believers how to evangelize, preach the gospel, and make disciples. His wife is Lisa Shuck and two children.”

“This episode we’ll explore the cliche “Your wife is your first ministry.” Is it Scriptural? Are there other primary biblical responsibilities? Can you make ministry your idol or mistress? What should a man who is called to preach do with this kind of cliche? What about missionaries and evangelists of old that we look up to that sacrificed much, even their marriages, for the gospel? What about Matthew 22:35-40, 1 Corinthians 7:32-34, Ephesians 5:22-33, and 1 Timothy 3:5?”

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/g220radionetwork/2016/05/10/ep-157-is-your-wife-your-first-ministry

-Until we go home

 

If No Commission Was Given

If No Commission Was Given

Imagine if Jesus never commanded us to make disciples of all nations. Imagine if no explicit declaration was given. If no “go” was uttered and no commission was discharged. Would it change the necessity of the message to be preached? Would it alter, in any way, the reality that it must be preached?

There is something called implication and presupposition which is part of the internal structure of language. They influence the way we view and interpret one another’s speech. If the gospel is a message that says that all men are sinful, and that through faith in Christ are we justified. And that if we do not trust in Him we remain guilty because we have sinned against God and His wrath abides upon us. My question is, “How could anyone keep that to themselves?” A more positive side to this is, if the message contains the truth that eternal life is free, and that Jesus Christ bore God’s wrath on our behalf as a subsitutionary payment to appease God’s wrath and to satisfy the demands of justice concerning the crimes we committed against Him, and by His grace we receive acquittal for our crimes, and that He rose from the dead – defeating death, sin, and hell. Once again, “Why would anyone want keep that to themselves?”

It’s preposterous to think that a person who was pushed out of the way of a bus that was about to hit them would just walk away indifferently, chaining up the story concerning what happened, meanwhile not warning others of the same danger. It would be absolutely insulting to think that a man who was resuscitated from the dead would not be thankful toward the person who accomplished the work, and not publicly praise and declare to others of this person. Then why would some, professingly believing the gospel, not share it with others, seeing that we too were dead in our trespasses and sins and in danger of God’s wrath, and since Jesus revived us and took the punishment in our place? Here’s one idea. Those people never really experienced God’s grace in the first place.

Within the gospel is the commission to go preach. The message in and of itself implies and presupposes our responsibility to be a faithful witness. Even if Jesus never uttered a single command to be a witness to the nations, part of the inner workings of the message is that we automatically make disciples of others. Of course, the Great Commission in Matthew and Luke goes into particular details concerning how disciples are made. But nevertheless, if those details were never presented, the lack of effort and motivation that most have to even tell someone the good news is completely contrary to the message they profess to believe. 

But I already hear one rebuttal. If the gospel implies the commission, then why would Jesus command us nevertheless in Matthew? Answer: Because it was His sovereign will to do so! Also, consider how even when Christ told people to keep their mouths shut concerning His miracles (Mark 7:36), that they still proclaimed it even more! I wonder why they felt compelled to do such a thing? Was it a sin to have disobeyed our Lord at that time? Some say yes. But, once again, how could you keep the good news to yourself? Isn’t regeneration one of the greatest miracles that God does to man’s heart?

Let’s compound this a little more by adding one of the reasons the Holy Spirit was given in the first place. The Scripture teaches that it was in order for us to be witnesses (Acts 1:8). In essence, so that we would have the spiritual power to preach the gospel. If no command to preach the gospel was ever given by Jesus, and the message implies the commission, and indeed, the Holy Spirit dwells within us to empower us to be witnesses, then one on hand, if no command was ever given, we would still have all the motivation we need. On the other hand, since the command has been given, if you are sluggish to behave accordingly, you are either sinning, or you’re not born again.

Whether you are behaving apocitically or not, this one thing is sure. We have the gospel entrusted to us as believers, and we have been made ambassadors in this world. How much more do you need than what you’ve already been given to be a faithful preacher of the good news of Jesus Christ? Why does it require so much energy for you to make disciples in the world? If not you, then your fellow believer in your local assembly? Or your pastor? If you’re a pastor, then why your congregant? I’m not being nasty. I am heart broken. Why? If this is such good news, then why? If Jesus really rose from the dead, then why? If you’ve truly been taken from darkness into light, why? If the Holy Spirit has saved you and dwells within you, then why? Why cast aside the most comprehensible of God’s commands?

It is my prayer that we all grasp the urgency of what we profess and diligently seek to make disciples through gospel proclamation in our local areas.

-Until we go home

He Does Too

He Does Too

When you’re feeling lonely, remember, he does too.

When you’re feeling depressed, remember, he does too.

When you’re feeling your inadequacies, remember, he does too.

When you get unjustly angry, remember, he has too.

When you get convicted for mistreating your wife, remember, he has too.

When you feel like you’ve failed your children, though doing your best, remember, he has too.

When you make a serious mistake, remember, he will too.

When you forget something important, remember, he will too.

When you fail to be graceful, remember, he will too.

And on Sunday, when you see him stepping up to the pulpit, thunderously teaching and preaching about sin, the gospel, and how he desperately needs God and His grace, just remember, you do too.

Pray for your pastor.

-Until we go home

Is There Really No Condemnation?

There is, therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  ~Romans 8:1

I know the first part of this verse well, but I don’t often hear the last part quoted, which is really the important part of this verse. This was not meant to be taken as, once you pray and ask Jesus into your heart, He doesn’t see the wrong you do so you are no longer condemned. Unfortunately, some seem to interpret it just this way.

Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul tells us to:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

This is not something to be taken lightly. There is freedom in knowing Christ, but that freedom is to walk in His ways. That is where true joy and victory lies, not being enslaved to this world.

If there is sin in your life, I implore you to let it go. Ask God to deliver you. Sin may be pleasurable for a time, but the end is eternal death and separation from God. It is not worth it.

If you are playing the “church” game, attending services and looking the part on Sunday but living and talking like the world the rest of the week, repent! It is never too late to surrender to Him. Then, when you do that, don’t look back. Press on as fast as you can.

Life is short
Death is sure
Sin the cause
Christ the cure

Faith and Justification

faith alone

There was a man who had made his way in the world. He lived by himself, for himself; spent much of his time in his nice condominium on the 5th floor of a nice building, away from the fray and cares of the world. One day a fire broke out in his building, on his floor. By the time he noticed the danger, the way out was impassible. Fire was breaking into his condo, causing the roaches and other vermin that had lived out of sight to seek escape in the open rooms. Desperation was setting in on the man, as he was seeing the stuff of his life consumed and his hidden companions revealed.

Through the open window he heard people yelling. On the ground below he saw men from the fire department, holding a net and yelling for him to jump. But jumping would not save him unless the firemen caught him. If he missed the net, if the net failed, if the men couldn’t hold it or cruelly moved out of the way; he would die. His jump would not save him. The fire had revealed the passing nature of his life trophies and the hidden pests he had been sharing his home with. But the fire could not save him – it only revealed the condition he was in and threatened his safety.

Do you see the spiritual lesson? The fire represents law, which reveals sin. While we Gentiles were never under the Mosaic Law, we were a law unto ourselves before Christ saved us and we were convicted by our own consciences that we were guilty. Unless we are made aware of this danger, we won’t notice it – man is naturally blind to spiritual truth. Jumping represents faith, a necessary component of our salvation, but not the entire scope. Faith in the firemen and their net wouldn’t save our man but it would get him to the safety they could provide. The firemen called the man, he jumped, the net held. Creator God calls men to Himself, (just as He did Lazarus) and they come to Him and are saved. Far more trustworthy than mere men and their net, our Savior is certain to save His elect. Our anchor holds!

Let’s take a closer look at faith and its part in our salvation. Ephesians 2:8 tells us, by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. As a footnote, I want to remind us that this faith is itself a gift from God, not something we contribute. Salvation is monergistic – all God and none of man. We also know that without faith no man can please God (Hebrews 11:6) and that not all men have such faith (2 Thessalonians 3:2). And lastly, we know that demons have some sort of faith which does not save them (James 2:19). This faith that God gives so that we can answer His call to “repent and believe” is special, necessary, and always present in the Christian’s life. This faith is not present in the lost person and the lack thereof keeps him from knowing and loving Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 2:14 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.

This verse describes people who do not have the Spirit and do not believe in Christ: “the natural man.” This question must be asked: What work of the Holy Spirit is lacking? Does the unbeliever simply need a non-saving form of illumination (which would support faith preceding regeneration) or does he need regeneration itself (which would demand regeneration preceding faith) to overcome his deficiency? Stated plainly, can one who is classified as dead in sins and trespasses be illumined, given faith, without being regenerated?

Natural or unregenerate man is darkened in his understanding (Eph 4:17), hostile to God (Rom 8:7), incapable of pleasing or trusting God (Rom 8:7–8), and dead (Eph 2:1–5; Col 2:13). This is his nature, and he always discerns, evaluates, and chooses in keeping with this nature. The only satisfactory solution to this condition is for him to be given a new nature and become a spiritual man, a man with the indwelling Spirit—he must be regenerated before he can be illuminated with spiritual understanding that comes with faith. (Mark A. Snoeberger)

As important as faith is, to rightly comprehend its meaning and use, we must understand its role in our salvation. For how a man gets saved is the most important thing we can comprehend.

While faith is important, it is not most important. Faith is not what turns away the wrath of God, the blood of Christ does that. Although by faith we have peace with God, faith does not save us; the finished work of Christ dos that. We cannot be saved without faith, but faith cannot save us. And while the righteousness of God comes to us by faith (Romans 3:22), it is Christ’s righteousness that grants us God’s favor: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21) Reconciliation with holy God is possible because we become His righteousness by having been bought by the blood of His Son.

Therefore, in everything we do; Bible study, evangelism, personal devotions, discipleship; Christ Jesus and His glory is to be our focus. The gospel is the proclamation of His sinless life and atoning death. The redemptive plan of God is revealed as the core theme of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Once we are born again by the Holy Spirit, we are no longer the carnal human we used to be – drawn and driven by the sinful desires of our flesh; we are new creatures in Christ, no longer regarding one another “in the flesh” but seeing all things through spiritual eyes of faith.

If we have been saved, we walk by faith and not by sight. We are no longer hostile towards God but anxious to know and please Him. While some would tell us sin is no big deal – we’ve been forgiven! – Scripture tells us that if one’s mind is set on the flesh, he is a dead man:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 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. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. (Romans 8:5-9)

If you and I have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, His Spirit does dwell in us and we are pleasing to God for the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us; we are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:24 & 25) We are justified and redeemed, by grace alone received by faith alone in Christ alone.

Some teach that justified means “just as if I’d never sinned.” If you say it just right, it sounds really cool. But that catchy phrase does not begin to describe the depth of our need nor the scope of Christ’s provision. The truth of our situation is that we were dead in sins and trespasses and Christ died for us while we were His enemies. A Man of sorrows, He stood in our place, having no sin of His own. His blood paid the price we could not pay. We were great sinners who were even more greatly forgiven by our great and holy God. We are forgiven, redeemed, ransomed, and reconciled – by the blood of Christ; to be shielded from the wrath of God and the Lamb on that great Day of Judgment. Are we to consider ourselves as if we’d never sinned? God forbid! Such a view does violence to the cross and the ongoing intercession our Lord provides. Our sin debt was not merely dismissed as a bad grade on an elementary school report card. Jesus hung on the cross and suffered the wrath of God on our account and there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!

The haunting lyrics of Matthew Smith’s rendition of “All I Owe” portrays how the sinner praises Christ for His sacrifice:

And all I owe you paid for me
From all I owe I’ve been set free
And all I owe proves your great mercy to me

We were bought at a price, we do not belong to ourselves any longer. The Spirit of the living God dwells within us, so we are to glorify God in our bodies (1 Cor 6:20). Paul went on to tell us (Gal 5:16-25) to walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. He contrasts the fruit of the natural man with the fruit of the spiritual man and finishes with an exhortation: And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. This is a life of faith; we struggle against sin, take measures to avoid sin, keep our focus on the unseen realm where we are seated with Christ. We are to be heavenly minded so we can be of earthly good. We won’t walk perfectly, for the flesh will always be tempted and sin too often; which is why no flesh can inherit the kingdom of God. But we have not been left to walk this path alone. We have the Holy Spirit within us, working in us to will and to do that which pleases Him (Phil 2:13). And we have an advocate, the Lord Jesus, Who is ever interceding on our behalf!

Walking in Spirit means we are sensitive to the sinful desires of our flesh and repent from those things that grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30). It also means our focus is to cooperate with Him and do, speak, and think things that please Him.  We have been translated from the kingdom of death to the kingdom of life!

Justification and Regeneration, Charles Leiter

Page 34 – 35: There is nothing in man that causes God to justify him, including his repentance and faith. Repentance does not pay for sin. A criminal’s remorse for his crimes does not satisfy the just demands of the law. Neither does faith pay for sin! Only the blood of Jesus can pay for sin! Justification is based on the blood of Christ.

This explains why a person can have a very weak faith and still be justified. Imagine two bridges crossing a chasm: One is very weak and untrustworthy; the other is very strong. A man may have a very strong faith in the weak bridge and confidently step out onto it. His strong faith will not keep him from plunging to his death. On the other hand, a man may have a very weak faith strong bridge and only barely manage with fear and trembling to venture forth upon it. The bridge will hold him securely, regardless of his weak faith. All that is necessary is for him to have enough faith to get him onto the bridge! When someone told Hudson Taylor that he must be a man of great faith, he replied, “No, I am a man of very little faith in a very great God.”

This little snippet reveal something else about faith that we must understand. The object of our faith is what is important. As the strong bridge in the story was essential, so the right Jesus for us. This is why the Roman Catholic Church is a synagogue of Satan: they have an unbiblical Jesus who cannot save. One can have all the faith in the world in a false savior and be certain of doom. As 1 Corinthians 15 declares, Christ Jesus dies for our sins according to the Scriptures; was crucified according to the Scriptures; He was resurrected according to the Scriptures. The Jesus Who saves is the Jesus of the Scriptures, not of man’s imagination!

Colossians 3:1-3 (ESV) If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Beloved, we who have been bought by the blood of Christ have died to self and this world, our life is hidden from the world because we are in Christ and they cannot see Him unless they are born again (John 3:3). Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20), we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6), crucified to the world (Gal 6:14). It is only our mortal body, our flesh, which has not been redeemed; that and our mission of reconciliation is all that ties us here. We are to put to death our members that are upon the earth (Col 3:5) and present our bodies as a living sacrifice unto our God (Rom 12:1). We are to resist being conformed into the pattern of the world and instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds on the word of God so we will know discern that which pleases Him (Rom 12:2).

This is the life of faith! Having been raised to new life in Christ, we are able and will want to be people who bring honor and glory to Him. He alone is worthy of all praise and we are those living stones He raise up to be His temple and to sing His praises now and throughout eternity!

John’s apocalyptic view of the end of this age (Revelation 5:1-9):

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.  And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” 

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,
 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

What a glorious Lord and Savior is Christ Jesus! He conquered hell and death and sin; He is the author of life and holds the keys of David. By His obedient life He earned the privilege to open the scrolls that spell out God’s consummation of history. The Lamb Who suffered and died, rules all of creation and will judge the quick and the dead. He is worthy of our praise, our devotion, our lives. And He is faithful even when we are faithless and tempted by the devil.

When Satan tempts me to despair

And tell me of the guilt within,

Upward I look and see Him there

Who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died

My sinful soul is counted free,

For God, the Just, is satisfied

To look on Him and pardon me.

(Charitie L. Bancroft)

His Robes For Mine

The glorious work of what Christ has done for me can overwhelm the heart and soul. That God was estranged from God cannot be truly comprehended. Just as great is the truth that this beggar had Somebody to die in my stead so that I would be able to stand faultless before the Father.

All because of Christ and Christ alone!

 

What Is Evangelism?

(This is from the last section in the book I am writing on Baptist theology and practice.)

One of the major purposes we are left on this planet after being raised from spiritual death is to Evangeltake the gospel to every nation, tongue, and tribe; being evangelists and ambassadors of reconciliation. We need to clarify what evangelism is and will begin by identifying a couple of popular practices that are not biblical evangelism. First is the notion that inviting lost people to church is evangelism. This reflects the false notion that evangelism is for the “professionals” and it also lets those who are ashamed of or disinterested in Christ Jesus off the hook of being familiar with His message. 1 Corinthians 14:23-25 shows that unbelievers are welcome but not the focus or even normal attendees in the regular worship of the local church. Ephesians 4 teaches that the local church is to be equipped so the sheep will not be tossed about by the wiles of men. Contrary to the idea of inviting lost people to church, YHWH tells us, So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. (Hebrews 13:12-13). By this, God means we are to go therefore and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19); making disciples of those that have answered the call. About that, more later.

Secondly, many church leaders put emphasis on the personal testimony of those witnessing, rather than making sure they can communicate the gospel. Some even acknowledging that the reason for doing so is because no one can argue with your personal testimony, as it is subjective, whereas the gospel is objective and demands a response. They might argue about the content and the demand of the gospel, but not about what God did for you. This is post-modern thinking and goes directly against the biblical instruction we have as ambassadors of our Lord and Savior (2 Corinthians 5:16-21).

The essential element in all evangelism is proclaiming the biblical gospel (this was covered in some detail in Chapter 8). By doing so, we take the pressure of our performance and insure we don’t contribute to false converts, and we also get confidence in the Word and Spirit of God as we see them do the work that only they can do. Being familiar with the Scriptures will embolden us as we see YHWH has gone before us preparing the soil for the seeds we sow, insuring a good return for His kingdom; see Mark 4:1-9 and:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven

and do not return there but water the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

(Isaiah 55:10 & 11)

It is His Word, sent out as He intended, that will not return void, not the 3 minute summary of our personal testimony or a twisted version that He has not commissioned.

As we go about faithfully proclaiming our Lord’s message, we would do well to bear in mind that there are two calls involved in evangelism: we give a general call to every creature (Mark 16:15) and God gives an effective call to His elect (John 6:44). Our call is universal, general, and outward, as we do not know who He has chosen to save. His call is specific, effectual, and internal, as He alone knows those chosen before time to be His adopted children (Ephesians 1:3-10) and He will give ears to hear to His elect. We see this graphically portrayed in Scripture in several places, including the scene wherein Paul and Barnabas had been preaching Pisidia and gained the attention of many people.

The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,

that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:44-52)

The message preached is found in verses 16 – 41. Gentiles and Jews heard the same general call, bringing them the good news that what God had promised to the Fathers He had fulfilled by raising Jesus from the dead. The seed fell on some rocky and thorny soil, but it fell on some good soil that had been prepared in advance by the good husbandman (John 15:1). As we see in the well-known road to Emmaus scene, it is YHWH Who keeps them from seeing or understanding until the right time (Luke 24:15 & 16; 30 & 31).

Jesus gave this general call in Matthew 11:28 and John 7:37, as people without respect to their persons were called to come to Him and find rest, to come to Him and satisfy their thirst. This is also the context of Peter’s sermon recorded in Acts 2, as men from myriad countries and religious beliefs (verses 9-11) were called to repent and be baptized (as a sign of their belief). The problem with this call is the same problem the Jews had with their Law: neither one can save or enable the hearer to be saved. People can claim to obey the law (Luke 18:18-23) and they can ignore or refute the words of men (Luke 14:15-24).

The general and effectual calls are likewise revealed to us explicitly in Acts 16, wherein we see Paul, Timothy, and Silas making a journey which finds them in Philippi where they stayed for a while. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 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. 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.” And she prevailed upon us. (verses 13 – 15) A good number of women who were somewhat aware of God had gathered at the river and all had heard Paul’s gospel message as the general call went out without restriction. At least this one had her heart opened by YHWH so that she heard the effectual call and was obedient to follow in believer’s baptism.

There are some who think the Law ought to be a part of the gospel, as people need to be convicted of their sin before they can see the need of grace. The law provokes us and reveals sin in us, but cannot grant eternal life. John Bunyan is thought to have written this little poem, showing us with memorable lines the difference between the Law and the Gospel:

Run, John, Run! The Law commands;

But gives me neither feet nor hands.

Far grander news the gospel brings;

It bids me fly and GIVES ME WINGS!

Our Savior has said something similar, in Paul’s Roman epistle: For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3 & 4)

The gospel is the good news of what Jesus has done to save sinners; refer to the Biblical Gospel in chapter 8. Our focus must be on that message, not 4 spiritual laws or any other nifty scheme man may have invented to make witnessing easy. We are not called to a life of ease; we are called to obedience. We are ambassadors of His message of reconciliation, not a one-off message of our own making. While the Law may rightly be used to show a self-righteous religious man his sin; it is not part of the gospel that every spiritually dead person must hear. Seeing the holiness of God in Christ, even in part, will do more to crush self-righteousness (as in the opening scene in Isaiah 6) than all the heavy yoke of the Law can bring to bear for the one who is being called to new life by the Spirit of the living God.

Much of the activity in a local church under the flag of evangelism takes place in what are called revivals. This is a logical progression under the previously mentioned idea that evangelism is bringing lost people to church. It appears that there is a belief that a specially called meeting with an out-of-town preacher will create an environment for sinners to be saved. I cannot commend revival meetings because I do not find them revealed or recommended in Scripture; I do not find them practiced by the early church; they presume man can schedule the work of the Holy Spirit; they rely on someone other than the shepherd of the local flock to feed them; and they influence many to chase numbers rather than spiritual growth. A century ago, a brother sounded a warning to the church regarding this practice:

The modem “revival,” the work of the “revivalist” who comes under the title of an evangelist, but works as a religious promoter in the organized church, is unexpected in Scripture, except as the word “revival” is used to denote a forward movement in the spiritual life of the church, without including the idea of attempting to regain some spiritual position once held, but now lost. The use of the word usually means, however, a getting up after having fallen down, or a waking after sleeping, or a coming to strength after a period of weakness; while, on the other hand, the Scripture pre-supposes a continual erect, wakeful and aggressive position for service on the part of every Christian (Eph. vi. 10-17). Thus, it may be seen, a “revival” is abnormal rather than normal. It may have a function when needed, but in no way should become a habit, much less a sanctioned method of work. Having regained vitality, believers are not warranted in habitually returning to an anaemic state. … The fact that a “revival” is planned for is a confession on the part of a church of a condition which would render the normal movements of the Spirit in salvation impossible. The call for the evangelist, under those conditions, also reveals the fact that the expectation of the church, to a great extent, is toward the man that is invited, rather than toward the Holy Spirit and His appointed ministry through the church itself. (True Evangelism, Lewis Sperry Chafer, epub, position 38.6 & 40.4, emphasis mine)

Evangelism, like all kingdom work, must be in accordance with the instructions and principles clearly given to us by our God. As discussed in chapters 5 and 6, regarding the nature and use of Scripture, when we use what man has developed to further kingdom work rather than what God has given us, we are betraying a greater trust in man than we have in our Creator. And this should never be the case for people of the Book! God is a jealous God and He will not give His glory to another. There is safety in our standing on and under the Word of God; it is His authority and revelation to us. History aligns with Scripture in bearing this out, as this short extract from an early debate between the reformers and Rome reveals:

Charles Eck had been sent by Rome to Germany to refute what Luther, Melanchthon and others had written in the Augsburg Confession; a document intended to declare essential doctrines and not to be the handmaid or rival to the Word of God. The Duke of Bavaria was the judge. After listening to the reaction to the confession, he asked Rome’s defenders, “can you refute by sound reasons the Confession made by the elector and his allies?” – “With the writings of the apostles and prophets – no!” replied Eck; “but with those of the Fathers and of the councils – yes!” (J.H. Merle D’Aubigne, History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century, Volume IV, page 187, Sprinkle Publications, 2003) As was pointed out in chapter 7 regarding the use of confessions, this peek into history reveals the absurdity of using man’s documents to defend Christian disputes. If we cannot, by sound reason, defend our beliefs and practices by the writings of the apostles and prophets, we have no business expounded them as Christian doctrine or practice.

When man claims to accomplish by the flesh what only God can do, we steal glory from God and He will not allow that to continue. It is His work to raise sinners to life, as He breathed life into Adam, as He gave life to 4-days dead Lazarus by calling him forth. Let us abandon the false hope that we can defer to pastor-man or that we can cause God to respond to our schedule and schemes. His kingdom, His Word, His temple; He is building the New Jerusalem with spiritual stones that He gathers from every nation, tribe, and tongue. We can work with Him or against Him. ‘Tis a far better thing for professing Christians to work with God than in opposition to Him. May it be so with us, as we herald His glorious name throughout the world.