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Archive for the ‘evangelism’ Category

You don’t have to have a degree in theology, philosophy, or science to engage in Christian apologetics or “defending the faith.” What you need is a deep-seated faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and an abiding love for Him.

but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. -1 Peter 3:15-16

Did you notice what Peter didn’t say? He didn’t say you need to have a working knowledge of metaphysics or a basic understanding of aristotilian logic or even the scientific method.  He didn’t even suggest that conversation on spiritual matter requires an ability to answer all spiritual questions an unbeliever might have. While knowledge in the above areas is incredibly valuable, none of these things actually equip us for the task of defending the faith.

On the contrary, regarding “Christ the Lord as holy” in our hearts is the means by which we will be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us. In other words, if you want to be prepared to defend your faith–you must simply treasure Christ supremely in your heart.

You might object that some people won’t care about how precious Christ is to you. They have questions about Christianity, the Bible, evolution, etc. etc. Let me first say that most people don’t have nearly as many questions as we think they do. And secondly, all people are naturally opposed to the things of God anyway (1 Cor. 2:14).

When we seek to convince a non-Christian of the veracity of the Christian faith, we are fighting a losing battle. Apart from the work of God on the human heart, people suppress the truth in their unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). In other words, its impossible for Christianity to gain a fair hearing–everyone you would hope to convince of Christianity’s merit are already opposed to it.

Does that mean that apologetic task is doomed to fail? If all our arguments will not convince people, how are we to approach apologetics? I have never met anyone who converted to Christ because they lost an argument about Christianity. On the contrary, I have witnessed many come to faith because of testimony of a faithful Christian and the hope they found in Christ.

The manner in which we do apologetics is as important as the answers we provide. Thus Peter says when you give a reason for the hope you have in Christ, do so “with gentleness and respect.” So its important that our lives are consistent, in some regard, with our testimony. I am not arguing that Christians seek to be perfect, but rather that they continually rely on, live by, and hope in the gospel.

Peter would have us be ready to give an answer “to anyone who asks us a reason for the hope that is in us.” You don’t have to be an expert in philosophy or science to do so because life’s biggest questions cannot be answered by science or philosophy. What happens when I die? Why did my friend die so young? Why is there so much sin, sickness, and despair in the world and will it ever go away? What is the meaning of my existence?

Science and philosophy attempt answers at these questions but neither can fix the problems that drive them. The gospel does one better. The gospel offers a fix to the problems behind these questions. Simply put, the gospel offers what people truly need:  hope.

Science and philosophy can only attempt answers to the “why” questions but neither can solve our most desperate problems. So instead of constantly worrying about whether you can intelligently answer every question your unbelieving friend might have, simply offer them the hope you have found in Christ. They may be completely closed off to any discussion of Jesus now, but eventually life will confront them with questions that they cannot answer and problems they cannot fix and if you are abiding in Christ you have the answer to their heart’s deepest longing–to know their creator through the sacrifices of His Son. When you have a friend desperate to save their marriage or coming to terms with the reality of death, if you are abiding in Christ, you have the answers to their most desperate questions.

I am thankful for intelligent Christians in the public square who are answering the scientific and philosophical questions of the unbelieving world. I praise the Lord for them but these conversations are not likely to produce much fruit. What will, however, is one friend offering another hope–hope to overcome our deepest flaws and failures. Hope to live again. Hope that will not disappoint.

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19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  (Hebrews 10:19-25).

I have been thinking a lot about the local church lately—partly because I have been teaching on it and partly because I am fascinated by what the New Testament has to say about it.  In Nicaragua, I had the privilege of teaching pastors on Biblical church discipline—the practice of caring for the souls of the congregation—the NT’s emphasis on church discipline tells us that God has designed the local church to be a testimony of God’s grace to the world and its members to exercise genuine care and watchfulness over each other’s souls.

There is absolutely nothing like the local church.  The church universal is God’s global display of his life transforming grace.  The church local is one of the most profound experiences of that grace this side of eternity.

Hebrews 10 informs us of the value of the local church–it is the training ground for the age to come.  In the local church, God’s people are to “stir one another up to love and good works  . . . all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (vv24-25).

If the local church is the believer’s training ground in which to prepare for the Lord’s return, we ought to think very carefully about how we “do life” together in the church.  A huge part of doing life together as the church local is simply showing up.  The writer of Hebrews says one of the ways we stir one another up to love and good works is by “not neglecting to meet together.”  Apparently meeting together is one of the primary ways in which we prepare for the age to come.  If that is true—we ought to make every effort to get the most out of our corporate worship as a local church and give the most to those who gather with us.

Given the value of the local church and the command to stir one another up, I have been thinking about how we can make the most of our Sunday morning gatherings.  With that in mind, I came up with four suggestions as to how we might do that:

  1. Come to Church.  Seriously—I know this sounds silly but if you are not here regularly, its very difficult to encourage and build up the body as the NT commands us to (Heb. 10:24-25; 1 Thess. 5:11; 1 Cor. 12:13-30).
  2. Sing—sing and sing loudly!  No one is going to fault you for your lack of pitch—even if you can’t sing well, when others hear you sing, they will hear you singing God’s praises and rejoice and sing along with you.  I have found when I sing loudly, other people sing louder, perhaps out of desire to drown out my poor vocals, but nonetheless our singing should have a corporate feel to it as the Bible commands us both to sing to God and to each other (Eph. 5:19)!
  3. Talk to people—its difficult to “stir each other up” when we are mere spectators at church and are not utilizing this time to build relationships.  Some of my very best friends are members of our church, but sometimes I have to make a point not to spend all my time talking to them at church.  At church, I want to make a point to talk to people who I do not know as well.  Those who I am very close to will still be my friend if I don’t spend all my time at church talking to them and there are many wonderful, mutually encouraging relationships that can be built in our church if we will just step out of our comfort zone and talk to the people we don’t know as well.  Our church is small but just big enough for folks to fall in the cracks and miss out on mutually encouraging relationships.  Be intentional in your communication with people when we gather for corporate worship.  Instead of blaming others for their lack of interaction with you—why not seek them out.  You will only get out of church what you are willing to put into it.
  4. Make a point to let your fellowship extend beyond our corporate gatherings—as valuable as it is for us to meet together on Sunday morning, it is not enough.  We are to continually be encouraging one another and building one another up—that means our relationships ought to extend beyond what the settings that the local church provides.  Sign up for a community group and make a point to eat with people in our church to do fun things with them—make plans to go to a football game or to have lunch, go run, walk, or bicycle, play games together, it doesn’t matter what it is, but build relationships!  Invite a family you don’t know over for dinner—it may be awkward asking them because you don’t know them that well, but God will bless it because he promises to bless our obedience with His grace!

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If you haven’t heard, the Dove World Outreach Center (DWOC) of Gainsville, FL, a church of about 50 people, plans to burn several hundred copies of the Qur’an on the anniversary of 9/11. Their Pastor, Terry Jones, told  ABC’s “Nightline” on Tuesday “Jesus would not run around burning books, but I think he would burn this one.”

I don’t know what is more infuriating—the astronomical amount coverage that has been given to a nutty, disgruntled pastor in Florida or the fact that said Pastor thinks it wise and pleasing to God to burn Qur’ans.  When folks in Jakarta, Indonesia found out about this small church in Florida planning to burn Qur’ans, thousands rioted outside the U.S. Embassy.  In Kabul, Afghanistan, thousands protested and burned an effigy of Pastor Jones!  That seems a bit of a strong reaction to the burning of your holy book.  Its incredible that this sort of nonsense is not getting the same media attention as some crack pot who leads a church of 50 people is planning to burn a few thousand copies of the Qur’an.  Nevertheless, we as Christians need to remember that not all the Muslims in the world are rioting and again that our aim is always first and foremost the proclaimation of the gospel to all people.

I think it goes without saying that this action is not the sort of thing that Christian churches ought to be doing.  We are, after all, called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44).  Further the purpose of the church is to make disciples to the glory of God (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8), and we are do so with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15-16).  It is difficult for me to understand how burning another world religion’s sacred book would aid us in fulfilling the great commission.

This act is nothing more than disrespect.  Such statements do not represent what Biblical Christianity is about. Such statements do not promote Muslim/Christian dialogue—in fact such acts serve to cut off such dialogue and erect unnecessary walls to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So what do we do when professing Christians act foolishly in public like this?

I have three suggestions:

  1. Ignore them—Pastor Jones and his church are looking for attention.  This is a publicity stunt—so the best thing we can do in response is ignore them.  If the media in our country had half a brain, they would have ignored it too, but instead its been made a national spectacle and Hillary Clinton and General Petraeus are somehow involved.
  2. Major on the Majors—what bothers me most is the unnecessary walls to the gospel that are being erected because of this.  This ought to remind us of the Biblical call to take the gospel to all nations—including Islamic nations.
  3. Live above them.  When people misrepresent Christ, we must strive all the more faithfully to represent Him as He truly is.  When Jesus said we are to shine as lights in the world, I am not sure he had in mind Christians lighting other religious books on fire in protest.  Don’t mishear me—I think the Qu’ran is a false book, I think it has led many people to Hell, but again the goal of the church is to make disciples of all nations.

Interestingly enough, Pastor Jones said, “We expect Muslims that are here in America to respect, honor, obey, submit to our Constitution.”  It is that very same constitution that gives Muslims the right to read the Qu’ran and Christian’s the right to share the gospel with such Muslims.

What a crazy world we live in—I think the best thing we can do with this whole fiasco is to ignore it and press on to preach the gospel to all tribes, tongues, and people

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If you didn’t know, I recently returned from a productive and encouraging short-term mission trip to Nicaragua.  There are many stories I could tell you about Nicaragua that would encourage you—stories that may even impress you—stories of how our team members got to share the gospel with hundreds of children in the local schools and stories of the many difficult questions that I was asked at the Pastor’s Conference or stories from our door-to-door evangelism and how the Lord was working to convict people of their sin.  However, perhaps the most memorable experience I had while in Nicaragua happened at a small Baptist Church in the rural area of Los Cedros—it was an invaluable lesson learned from Pastor Adonis.

When we went out into the communities of the churches we were serving at in Nicaragua, the pastors of the churches went with us and even brought members of their churches along so that they might learn to do evangelism and so that he might be used of the Lord to disciple them.  Pastor Adonis has a passion for evangelism and for discipleship.  He understands that the only hope the lost people in his community have is Christ and he understands that the members of his church must be the ones that tell their lost neighbors about Jesus.  There can be no evangelism without discipleship—if people are not trained to reap the harvest, they will not go out into it.  There can be no discipleship without evangelism first preceding it.  You cannot disciple the lost, you must share the gospel with them first, then the process of teaching them everything that Christ commanded can begin (Matt. 28:18-20).  Pastor Adonis was doing both—teaching the members of his church to do evangelism and doing evangelism himself, going out into the community and delivering the good news to the lost.

While I was greatly encouraged to see a pastor leading by example and seeking to disciple men in his church, this is not what stuck out to me most about Pastor Adonis.  What stuck out most was what Pastor Adonis said to the members of his church who were not doing evangelism.  Thursday night was the last night that we would spend at Los Cedros Baptist Church and Eric Hixon preached a revival there that night.  At the end of the service, Pastor Adonis opened up the altar for people to come and pray and he challenged those in his church who were not doing evangelism in the community to come to the altar and repent for their sin.  About 15-20 adult members of the church came forward and knelt at the altar in prayer.

If evangelism is a command, then it follows that neglect of evangelism is sin.  This really convicted me because far too often I fall to the temptation to think of evangelism as an optional practice.  I felt like I should be at the altar praying—I wasn’t invited though, Pastor Adonis only invited the members of his church as they were the ones who had covenanted together as a body to hold each other accountable to seek the Lord.  Perhaps Pastor Adonis’ encouragement to his people to repent for not evangelizing seems harsh and perhaps it was, but it was sweet moment for me.  It did not feel bitter, it felt redemptive and loving—I got the feeling that Pastor Adonis was calling his flock to repentance because he loved them.  I hope that is the case—I am praying that God would develop such relationships in my church—ones were we can lovingly call each other to account and ones in which we take the gospel and evangelism seriously.

Despite the fact that I got to spend three days teaching Pastor Adonis and several other Nicaraguan pastors, it goes without saying that I feel I gained much more from Pastor Adonis’ example and care for his flock.

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Churches around the country take up penny gifts for missions at Vacation Bible Schools during the summer. It’s a special gift because kids love to give whatever they have. I just want to post a prayer from one of the young girls this morning in this note.

Here it is:

“Dear God, Thank you for all of these pennies. I hope everyone can hear about Jesus. Amen.”

Kids — even really young kids — can be missional (live as missionaries). And so can you.

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Marriage exists to help us make much of Christ.  I have been striving to define marriage this way in the last two newsletters that I have written.  First I made the argument that you are what is wrong with your marriage.  I wasn’t trying to be mean or judgmental but simply wanted to point out that marital problems are not primarily circumstantial but rather they arise because in every case, marriage is a covenant entered into by two sinners.  Sin comes from within the human heart, not from without (Mark 7:20-23).  If we want our marriages to improve, we need God to change our hearts not our circumstances. In my second article, I argued that Dr. Phil can’t fix your marriage or mine.  The reason being that much of the marital advice given by secular marriage experts is based on compromise between two people of differing mindsets and passions.  I therefore argued that what our marriages need is not a healthy dose of compromise but a common vision and goal.  Husbands and wives, to have a healthy relationship, need to be going in the same direction.  They need to be pursuing something together, namely Jesus Christ and conformity to Him.

When I read Ephesians 5:22-33, I think we see the purpose of marriage very clearly.  God designed marriage to make us holy—to make us more and more like Christ and thus to magnify Christ in greater and greater degree during our sojourn here on earth.  Does that mean that single people are less holy?  No not at all (1 Cor. 7:6-7), it just means that God has designed marriage in a unique way such that it provides special opportunities to image Christ to the world.

So how can your marriage display the glory of Christ more clearly?  How has God designed your marriage as a means to holiness?  I can think of at least three ways:

Marriage is a means to holiness by . . .

  1. Its very nature.  God created marriage to be a “one flesh” union (Gen. 2:23-24; Eph. 5:31).  In the Old Testament, “flesh” more often than not is synonymous with “person.”  In other words the idea of sinful flesh or the flesh being synonymous with the sinful nature is a not what is intended by marriage being a “one flesh” union.  For example, in Genesis 6:12, just before the flood, we learn that “God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.”  Clearly here, God means that all people corrupted their way on the earth.  Thus in being one flesh, a husband and a wife are no longer two people but one.  This idea of “one flesh” certainly carries a sexual aspect but it is much bigger than that.  Inside of marriage, you can no longer think of yourself as an autonomous individual.  Marriage by its very nature attacks selfishness and self-worship.  What is at the heart of your marital squabbles?  If you are honest before God, is not selfishness at the root?  As a follower of Christ, God has graced you with a spouse to reveal your own selfishness to you so that you might repent from it and He will uproot it out of you and make you more like Jesus.  That is good news and God has designed your marriage to do that on a regular basis. Marriage shows us our sin so that we might hate it and repent from it and thus image Christ more clearly.
  1. Its roles.  Wives and husbands are clearly equal in Scripture (Gal. 3:28-29; Gen. 1:26-28; 1 Peter 3:7), but Ephesians 5:22-33 clearly gives them different commands.  God commands wives to “submit to their husbands as to the Lord” (v22) and husbands to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v25).  In the curses pronounced upon Adam and Eve in the fall, we see that there is going to conflict inside of marriage because they will struggle to keep these commands (Gen. 3:16).  We could probably all attest to the fact that husbands get frustrated when they feel they are not respected and wives get frustrated when they don’t feel loved.  The headship of the husband is not all about making all the big decisions, let’s not forget that the husband and wife are now “one flesh”  In fact, the husbands headship is primarily spiritually directed.  The primary way in which husbands are to lead their wives is toward Christ (Eph. 5:25-27).  Husbands lead primarily through love—loving in a self-sacrificial, Christ-like way that frees the wife to grow in her relationship to Christ because she is receiving the kind of love that God intended for her inside of marriage.  Similarly, wives point their husbands to Christ by submitting to them as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22).  This doesn’t mean that wives are to blindly do whatever their husbands say, it means they strive to respect their husbands and submit to their humble headship out of love for Christ.

Husbands its worth noting at this point, that the Bible actually doesn’t say anything about you taking the back seat when it comes to keeping house and raising the children.  In fact you are to be the lead discipler of your children (Eph. 6:1-3) and are to love your wife in a self-sacrificial way (Eph. 5:25).  The Bible tells us more about who we are supposed to be in marriage than it does about exactly what we are supposed to do.  It is clear, you are to love your wife to such an extent that you would give your life for her—that may mean swallowing your pride, turning off the TV and helping her around the house.  Similarly, wives when you do not feel loved there is a very discouraging and disrespectful way to express that which will crush your husband.  Strive to respect him—even when you disagree with him.  Work to communicate your frustrations and disagreements in a way that values and respects your husband.  Husbands when you love your wives like Christ loves the church, they will find joy in submitting to your Christ-like leadership.  Wives when you respect your husbands, they will find joy in loving you self-sacrificially.  When we live faithfully inside the roles God created for marriage, we display the glory of Christ in our marriages.

  1. By its evangelism.  Marriage is a mighty tool in the hands of God to take the gospel to the world.  When we live within the roles God created to be exercised in marriage, a godly marriage then naturally displays the gospel–husbands are showing the love of Christ for the church by giving of themselves for the good of their wives and wives are submitting to them out of love for Christ.  Godly marriages are grace-centered, deep hurts can be overcome inside of Christian marriages because they are grounded in the gospel that tells us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12).

There is a call inside of Christian marriage to invite unbelievers into our lives, to let them see the way we live and be challenged by it.  If we are living the way that God calls us to live in marriage, we will display the grace of Christ in the gospel—we will stick out from the secular marriages around us that are treading through the muddled waters of compromise.  God has designed Christian marriage to be a display of Christ’s redemptive love for the church—thus your marriage is a mighty tool to draw both your neighbors and the nations to himself!

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I will never forget the first time I sat down with my great uncle to “talk theology.”  My uncle was a Methodist pastor for many years, the only time I got to see him was at family reunions, but I always had a great deal of respect for him—he was a kind and patient man.  So when he asked me if I would like to talk theology with him at a family reunion not long after I had decided to go to seminary, I was very excited. 

We were in the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico, it was a beautiful sunny day, and we sat down on the porch of the cabin that my family had rented to do one of my favorite things—talk about the Lord, but in an instant, my joy turned to remorse and deep concern.  The first thing my uncle said was “Drew, I don’t believe in the atonement.” 

I wasn’t sure if I heard him right because I was pretty young in my faith, but I thought surely he couldn’t be a pastor and not believe in the atonement of Christ!  So I asked, “What did you say?”  My uncle responded, “I don’t believe in the atonement, I don’t believe that Jesus had to die to pay the penalty for my sins.”  Perhaps my response was a little lacking in tact but looking back on it, I don’t regret what I said to him.  I said, “if you don’t believe in the atonement you aren’t saved.”  I was young in my faith but I firmly believed that Jesus died for my sins and that whoever believed in Him would not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).  I believed that Christ redeemed me from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for me (Gal. 3:13).  I believed the gospel that proclaims while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me and whoever would believe in Him will be saved (Rom. 5:8; Acts 16:31).

My uncle went on to tell me about how he went to a seminary in north Texas when he was close to my age and while there his whole foundation for theology was shaken.  He had professors who questioned the authority and inerrancy of Scripture which led him to follow a group of scholars who would later come together as “The Jesus Seminar” (Tyler wrote on this group a long time ago).  They were hoping to “rediscover” the historical Jesus and behind this attempt at rediscovery was the assumption that the Jesus of the Bible couldn’t possibly be the real Jesus.  This group claims to love Jesus and to believe in Him, just not everything he said and did.  In order to determine what Jesus really said and did, these scholars got together and read portions of the four gospels and then voted on how Jesus-like the passage was (I am not making this up).  They voted using colored marbles, as follows:

  1. Red marbles – Jesus actually said or did it.
  2. Pink – Jesus probably said or did something similar.
  3. Grey – Jesus didn’t do or say it, but the saying or action lines up with his ideals.
  4. Black – Jesus did not do or say it –the passage was added by translators years after Jesus’ death.

The Jesus Seminar even followed this meeting up with a color coded Bible, based on the votes cast.  Do you see what this does?  This makes man the ultimate determiner of who Jesus is and what he said.  Furthermore, it should be noted the all Scripture makes the claim of itself that it is divine and authoritative—Scripture is from God not from man (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). 

Charles Spurgeon said this of some of the more “liberal” Bible scholars of his day, “The new religion practically sets ‘thought’ above revelation, and constitutes man the supreme judge of what ought to be true.”  This is the perpetual sin of man—to exalt himself over and against the Lord or at least make yourself the final arbiter of His truth . . . a god in our own image.

The Jesus Seminar was not taking the Bible seriously, but not only that, they were setting themselves above it.  If Scripture claims to be divine and authoritative and you immediately claim to have the authority and power to deem some of it human—you are contradicting yourself. 

If you follow the logic of The Jesus Seminar, you can see how my uncle ended up saying that he didn’t believe in the atonement, because if it is up to man to determine truth, man is immediately going to eliminate anything that makes him even the slightest bit uncomfortable.  The first to go are the portions that deal with issues of sin, judgment, and punishment.  Thus Jesus Seminar essentially landed itself in universalism and under their influence, folks like my uncle began preaching “another gospel” altogether (Gal. 1:6-8).  Though my uncle knew the gospel, by his own theology I feared that he did not know Jesus as Lord.  I told my uncle that I feared for his soul, I preached the gospel to him that day and plead with him to come to Christ and live—to me that was the only loving thing to do.

Read the Bible on its own terms before you fall to the temptation to exalt yourself over it.  The gospel and consequently the salvation of souls is at stake if you don’t.

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