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Archive for the ‘evangelism’ Category

When we are sharing the Gospel we must include the Law in our conversations. Our listeners need to see their guilt, their helplessness, their depth of sin, their opposition to God, and their only solution in Christ Jesus. They also need to know the consequences of their sin, but we will leave that for another post.
 
The Law and it’s Purpose
 
1) GUILT: “The law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God.” (Romans 3:19)
 
2) HELPLESSNESS: “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” (Romans 3:20)
 
3) ANTI-GOD: “Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God.” (1 John 3:4)
 
4) SIN-FILLED: “Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin.”(Romans 7:7a)
 
5) SOLUTION: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24)
 
Do not make the mistake of sharing a squeaky-clean Gospel – merely saying that Jesus died for our sin is not enough. People need to know what sin is, accept their guilt, learn the consequences, recognize their inability to do anything about it, and acknowledge that Jesus is their only solution for their sin problem. I have seen data that shows that when we omit this information, 80% to 90% of people who received Jesus eventually reject Him and return to their sinful ways.
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Jesus doesn’t tell us to go out there and do the best we can. He said, Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

We naturally say, “Impossible!”

To which Jesus replies, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

See the Bigger Picture

Without Jesus we cannot save ourselves, we cannot cleanse ourselves, we cannot heal ourselves, we cannot changes ourselves, and we cannot be perfect, but in Christ Jesus we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13). That of course means all things that are pleasing to Him, bless Him, and are of His good will and pleasure.

But we lament, “We will fail.”

Two things: Making a mistake does not negate perfection, nor is making a mistake failure. Failure is when we make a mistake and refuse to learn from it. Failure is when we fall down and refuse to get up. Failure is when we make one mistake and think two good deeds will balance the scales. Failure is when we reject God and try to fix it ourselves. Failure is what negates perfection.

Perfection is Already Ours

“He has clothed (us) with the garments of salvation; He has covered (us) with the robe of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:10) In other words, we are dressed to perfection. Yes, we are works in progress. Yes, we are being changed daily. Yes, we are being sanctified. But in all these things if we err, He has us covered. No longer should a brother or sister in Christ declare, “I’m not perfect,” because in Christ Jesus we are, so we should start acting like it.

Sharing Our Perfection

Our most perfect possessions are our salvation and the ‘Good News’ of the Gospel message. I suggest this is what we share.

“Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

(Matthew 28:19)

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“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness (adultery and lust), not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:12-14)
 
sdMany people believe in parachutes. That is to say they know what they do and believe (for the most part) that they’ll perform as advertised, but they would NEVER put one on. Myself included.
 
And for many people, it’s the same way with Jesus. They believe Jesus is who God says He is, but they’re not going to ‘put Him on’ because to do so would mean to alter their lifestyle.
 
Some believe that they can put Jesus on just before they die. That’s like saying they’ll jump out of the plane just before it crashes, but having no idea when that will occur or that it’s happening now.
 
When the Bible talks about belief (or faith), it’s with the understanding that the ‘believer’ trusts to the point of obedience. In other words, if you truly believe (if your faith is real), you will do as Jesus (God) has commanded.

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The theme for this year’s National Day of Prayer (May 5, 2016) is ‘Wake Up America.’ The emphasis is upon the need for Christians to “return to the God of our Fathers in reverence for His Holy Name.” The representative verse the NDP committee has chosen is Isaiah 58:1a:

Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet.

I like it, but before we all set out to participate in this year’s event, I’d

ndplike to elaborate upon their import, at least as far as it pertains to consequence, as I suspect a certain presidential candidate’s name is going to come up a lot in our prayers today.  If (or when) God pours out His wrath on America it won’t entirely be because of a heathen in the White House, but because there are heathens in His house as well. So before we go around proclaiming, “Surely God’s wrath is coming now!” we should submit to a little self evaluation.

Let us consider the NDP theme Scripture verse from a few years ago:

“If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, emphasis mine)
Take note that the passage does not begin, “If my people, which are called by My name, shall elect a godly man…”

If you’re a Christian and you’re concerned about the wrath that is coming, focus on the log that might be in your own eye — that person you’re shacked up with, that lifestyle you embrace, that porn you watch, that substance you abuse; you get the picture. Be ye revived! Some would say you aren’t even born again, so if that’s the case, be ye born again!

You say you’re saved and there’s nothing in your eye? Great! Turn your attention to that brother or sister wallowing in their habitual sin and lovingly bring them back into the fold.

It will serve us all well to remember that God’s wrath is not coming solely because your guy at the gas station is a Muslim, your doctor in the hospital is a Hindu, your mechanic at Pep Boys is an atheist, or your man in the White House is bombastic. These are folks we should be sharing the Gospel with,  but remember, when His wrath comes it will be partly because of the filth within the body of Christ, the Church. That should sting a little.
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“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger (wrath) of God is coming.” (Colossians 3:1-6 NLT)
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That Colossi-warning was written not to the world, but to the saints (Ephesians 5 repeats the warning to the church), and one of the reasons why 2 Chronicles 7:14 is applicable not only to historic Israel, but to our nation today. So perhaps when we pray today, we should focus not on others (so much), but ourselves and in the spirit of revival.
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“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God…(Praise the Lord, but)…whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (Romans 5:9; John 3:36b)

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The Good News has changed since Moses‘ day. Back then this was the Gospel message:
“And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the pocongregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’S passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:1-13)
 
Of course most of us already know that this was just a picture (or type) of the Good News that was to come in Jesus Christ, but I wanted to focus on these two (2) things that jumped out at me in the Exodus narrative:
1) 600,000 Jewish men all received the same message.
2) They all believed it and obeyed.
The first point speaks to the evangelical and apostolic effort that was put forth — Moses received a precise message from God that needed to go out without any changes or alterations. Moses passed the message to the elders, and they passed it to men, who then passed it to other men, until all 600,000 families got the Good News. I haven’t researched it, but this may be the only time in Israel’s history that the entire nation was united for a singular cause and where all the men were perfectly compliant. We know they got it right because not one soul was lost.

We know they got it right because not one soul was lost.

The second point speaks to the first: everyone who heard the complex and intricate message obeyed it. Again, we know this to be true because not one Jew perished.

Outwardly, this ministered to me in that we [Christians] have a very precise, albeit simpler message to deliver. I took note that in the Exodus account there was not one man [who received the message] who said, “Okay, I will now pray for the Lord to give me an open door or a ‘Divine appointment’ to share this Good News.”

The notion of being sent out was implied in the urgency of the original message. If for some reason there was a man who could not go, I suspect he frantically searched for another man to go in his stead.

Inwardly, this ministered to me in that belief in the message was not sufficient to be saved. There was not one Jewish man who thought or said, “Moses, I totally believe you and this whole ‘slaughter a lamb’ thing, but I’m gonna do it my way. God knows my heart and He will understand.”
It was collectively understood that there was either going to be genuine, unwavering compliance or there was going to be death. On that day, Israel chose compliance.
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway , even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Where does that leave us?

I believe in Jesus and therefore I follow Jesus. He has given us the directive to share the Gospel Message and our obedience is implied in the word “Go.”

We’re not to alter the message in any way, we’re just to pass it on in order that souls will not perish. We can (and should) pray for ‘open doors’ and ‘Divine appointments,’ but chances are we’re not going to see any of them unless or until we actually set out to deliver the message. Oh that’s not to say that God won’t send opportunities knocking upon your door (He does do that on occasion), but consider that if Israel had waited in this fashion there likely would have been a lot of dead Jewish people in Egypt on that first Passover.

You have the message and God has equipped you in some way to deliver it. Pray for your open door and then trust as you go out in obedience that you will see it clearly. If you’re a follower of Jesus, it’s only reasonable.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

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Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.”  (1 Samuel 8:4-5)

Oh no. Looking back we see that Israel has made a grievous error. When God chimes in, we see the full depth of their mistake and the consequences that will follow.  Take note: these consequences are in essence a promise from God.

The Lord speaks (verse 7):

The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.

We immediately see the root of the problem – the people have rejected God. These religious folks only wanted to be religious up to a certain point.  They would be great Jews on the Sabbath, but as for the rest of the week, well not so much. As a result they would receive exactly what they asked for and the consequences that would go along with those choices.

There Are Always Consequences

So Samuel spoke all the words of the Lord to the people who had asked of him a king. He said, “This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants. He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants. Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” (1 Samuel 8:10-18)

It Doesn’t Matter Who You Choose

When a nation collectively rejects God, this is what we get. I don’t know this 11for a fact, but I suspect there were at least some Jews who did not want a king. Too bad for them. We can assume that their efforts were in the minority and had no bearing on what Israel would ultimately receive. So it is for our nation.

Am I suggesting that this First Samuel passage is applicable for today? That’s exactly what I’m suggesting and I can’t find anything in the Bible that undoes the consequences (promises) that God established as a result of our historical desire for secular leadership.

But we’re Christians! Jesus is Our King!

This is true. But nevertheless, the consequences linger – we have adopted a system of governing ourselves and we are stuck with it. The best men can do is modify this broken system, which in many instances only makes the situation worse; i.e., communism, socialism, fascism, capitalism, etc. At the end of the day, and regardless if we rightfully claim Christ as our king, we will have this earthly leadership, that is, until Christ returns. Then and only then will the kingdom be restored.

But Until That Day…

“(Let) Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. (Romans 13:1-7)

God in His infinite wisdom has given us a way to deal with it. In the same way God placed regulations on slavery (not because He condoned slavery, but because slavery is a reality to this day), God gives us regulations for living in harmony with the secular, government system. Again, we’re stuck with it (in subjection to it), until Christ’s return, so this is how we’re to deal with it. God puts it this way: “This is my ordinance and if you oppose it, you’re bringing condemnation upon yourself.”

This is my ordinance and if you oppose it, you’re bringing condemnation upon yourself.

The American Dynamic

It appears to me that God allowed something unique for the United States. Don’t get me wrong – God is not a respecter of persons in that regard, but at the same time God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

I believe God showed our founding fathers some of this mercy when they set out to create a republic that fully recognized God as creator and the giver of rights. As a result, we the people were given access to God-given rights that in many cases the government had previously denied. Just that we could now cast a vote for our leaders was positive, but this system went even further: we could dictate the kind of leader we desired, including his religious affiliations. Naturally, in these early elections, Christians were commonly running against Christians, and therefore Christians commonly won.

So what happened?

I suppose we could call it the Ancient Israel Syndrome: through the years we wanted less God and more of ourselves. In a word, the system is still broken. We redefined Christianity over and over in our desire to make our faith fit our culture, rather than having our culture conform to our faith. As a result we have a country with laws (I still can’t believe it) that allow drug use, homosexuality, murder in the womb, and general moral decline. We have become a nation of those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!’ (Isaiah 5:20)

The Christians Rebel

Is it too late for this country to recover? Can Christians rally to get a solid, evangelical, fundamentalist Christian in the White House to save America? I believe it’s too late, but in the same way that it was too late for Israel way back in First Samuel. Ever since they rejected God and desired secular kingship, the dye was set and rule will not be restored until Christ returns to establish His Government.

Now What?

Let’s go back to Romans 13:1-7. In it we see a brief description of what we and these God-ordained leaders are supposed to do.

Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.

Ideally, if we do good (if we obey the laws of the land as long as they’re not in opposition to God’s law), we can live fearlessly. This is of course where Christians have the advantage; if we adhere to God’s Biblical mandates and are persecuted for it, we have the assurance that our eternal futures are secure. Non-Christians have no such promise.

The passage goes on to say that these leaders are sword bearers, in other words they are the God-ordained mechanism for protecting the people militarily. So, if you’re pacifist, no worries! God has established a government to fight for your protection; avengers and bringers-of-wrath to evil doers! But take note that while these rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this wrath, that does not necessarily mean that they are followers of Jesus Christ or (hold on to your Easter bonnets), do they have to be.

Blasphemy!

Don’t get me wrong. Personally, I want ALL my leadership, from the POTUS to my local town mayor, to be Christian. Why? Because I know that Christians (theoretically) have the same moral values. However, the reality in these United States is that although we have the freedom to vote, we really don’t have the freedom to elevate the best candidates to be elected. That process is pretty much done by the government and as a result, our choices are severely limited. Honestly, sometimes our choices are horrid.

Then Don’t Vote!

Not voting is not really an option and I’ll remind you why: Romans 13:1 says we’re to be in subjection to the governing authorities. These authorities have established laws and our civic privileges, and as good citizens we’re to take full advantage of them. If collectively we refuse to vote, the system will take advantage of our failure and usher in a dictatorship by default.

That leaves us with voting for what we’re given, and if we’re not pleased with the choices, we’re to essentially choose the candidate that will do the least amount of damage to our moral structure, national security, economic stability, and personal freedoms. Keep in mind, Billy Graham is not running for president this year, nor is Franklin Graham, Max Lucado, or Greg Laurie.

Now this might shock you, but I’m not sure I’d vote for any of those guys anyway. Sure, they’re abundantly equipped in one particular area, but I suspect they fall way short in others. Obviously I don’t know what kind of expertise they would bring to the table, I’m just making a general observation.

As for 2016 (and at the time of this writing), the field has been effectively narrowed down to three possible candidates (for me) and my choice (which I have voiced on social media) is not sitting well with many of my Christian brothers and sisters. Actually, the phrase ‘not sitting well’ is being kind. Some of my ‘brothers and sisters’ have become outright nasty over my choice because (I gather), he is the least Christian of the bunch. While they’re hoping to pick a ‘Pastor-in-Chief’ from the group we’re given, I’m leaning towards that sword-bearing, avenger of wrath that God told me about, praying that in addition to keeping the nation secure, he will also serve to protect what’s left of our Christian morality, despite the fact he isn’t the model of Christian morality himself. In other words, through constant prayer, I’m trying to vote for the best overall candidate given the circumstances.

Vote For Whoever You Want

I hope that it’s clear that you should vote for whoever you want, but if the last paragraph riled a few Christians up, remember to love others, love your enemies, and behave in a way that is pleasing to God. If you have a beef with your brother or sister, go to them privately and try to settle it, keeping in mind that every player in this next election has a log in their eye, skeletons in their closets, and a penchant to sin.

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Are you a fisher of men?

There are many ‘plumb lines’ in God’s word; those verses that we can use to decide if we’re on the right path, spiritually speaking. One of my favorite plumb line verses is Matthew 11:30 where Jesus tells His disciples, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” If a Christian finds that ‘light and easy‘ is not characteristic of their walk with Jesus, he immediately knows something must be askew.

Matthew 4:19 is another one of those verses.

And (Jesus) said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

If you’ve been a follower of Jesus Christ for a reasonable amount of time, God’s promise to you is crystal clear – He will make you a fisher of men; i.e., an obedient Christian whose will is in line with Christ’s for saving souls.

What is the implication if you’re not a fisher of men?

Well that’s clear too – you’re not following Jesus as closely as you think you are. I am not saying that you’re not saved. That could be the case, but that’s not what I’m saying here. That’s between you and God. I’m merely pointing out that if you’ve been a Christian for a while and you’re not an active (regular) participant in the sharing of the Gospel message in some way, shape, or form, you’re either not following Jesus close enough or you’re just plain ignoring Him.

If that comes across as an accusation, please don’t become angry or defensive, for if you have concluded that Jesus has not fulfilled this promise in your life, it’s very good news and one of the reasons we find these golden nuggets in the Bible.

As we read God’s word, we stumble upon these occasional checkpoints and they give us pause, or at least they should. Some of us read them, make a nanosecond determination that we’ve fallen short in our Christian duty, and quickly move on to the next verse. That of course isn’t helpful. Please know that these are not tests that God puts in our path that we might fail, but rather brilliant lights that show us where we may or may not need improvement.

So, if you’re not a ‘fisher of men’ then rejoice! You’ve identified an area of your Christian life that needs attention and more importantly, you know Who to go to, to remedy the situation. Confess it and submit yourself to becoming what Jesus has promised to those who follow Him.

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