Friday, September 13, 2013

Don’t share the love of Christ ... Evangelism part 2/3

I’m thinking a lot about evangelism. I feel the times are getting closer and closer to the end. Whether you are a student of eschatology or not (eschatology = last things) the fact is that today we are one day closer to the end than yesterday. Urgency is a must, because today anyone could die. If they are without the Lord, they will go to hell. We must be about the Father's business, and urgently, with purpose and intent.

And correctly.

More on that in a minute.

Stoning of St.Stephen - Paolo Uccello, c.1435
We have many reasons to evangelize. It is an order from Jesus to go about making disciples. (Matthew 28:16-20). The lost world is becoming ever more corrupt and depraved. Or another way to look at it is, human-kind has always been corrupt and depraved, but they used to be able to hide it better. Now, they can’t. It is rising in hearts of men and therefore they need the Light more each day. (Genesis 6:1-5, Matthew 24:37).

And yet into this cauldron of depravity and evil, many Christians take the approach to evangelism by saying “Jesus loves you.” Then they go home and say “I shared the love of Christ today.”

And you know what the lost think in response to the old chestnut approach “Jesus loves you”? “Big deal. I already knew that.” So they look smilingly at the evangelizer and the evangelizer looks smilingly back and all is kumbayah.

The lost believe they are good. They believe that because they are pretty good people, of course Jesus already loves them. They’re comfortable with hearing that. As a matter of fact, a Christian has just confirmed what they already knew all along, "Phew, I'm all set," they think. So the Christian’s evangelism efforts get a polite response and no conviction.

I say, don’t share the love of Jesus.

I plead, let’s get that worn out phrase out of our pantheon of trite phrases.

Rev. Matt Slick continues by explaining how to present the Gospel:
 "The Last Angel" Artist: Nicholas Roerich, 1912

"How do you tell people that they need Jesus? Do you tell them that Jesus loves them and that He wants to make their lives better? Do you tell people that Jesus can forgive them of their sins? Do you tell them that Jesus has a wonderful plan for their lives and that they should believe in Him and ask Jesus into their hearts? If so, you may be doing a harm to their spiritual health. That's right, harm."

Because in order to share the Good News, we have to share the bad news first. Sin. Judgment. Wrath. We have to tell people they are separated from God due to their sin. Speak clearly of where their default destiny lies, after death. That there is nothing they can do to earn holiness or please God. Law first.

John the Baptist and Jesus both opened their ministries with the message "Repent and believe, the kingdom of God is at hand." Peter opened with sin, judgment and wrath in his sermon at Pentecost. (Acts 2:14-41). Paul told the Athenians at the Areopagus that they were worshiping wrong, and used their error as a starting point to tell them the main point: and that they needed to repent because the day of judgment is coming (Acts 17:30-31).

Not that we go in with guns blazing. We are mindful of our audience and tailor the message to them. Paul used the Jewish scriptures to teach the Jews of Jesus and to the Pagans he used creation as a starting point. But we get to the point quickly: sin, wrath, judgment, then the Good News, Jesus crucified, died, resurrected. But far from today's comfy evangelizing schema, it is necessary to tell the bad news so they know why they have no hope in themselves, to show Jesus is the hope and the Good News.

The point here is to relate the holiness of God. And the best way to do that it to tell them they are unholy.

 "High", Artist: Morris Louis, 1959
"For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite." (Isaiah 57:15)

You will receive a variety of reactions, most of them negative. You might be rejected, spit at, mocked, arrested, ignored, or beheaded. In today's western Christianity, people tend to think that a person has evangelized wrong if they receive reactions like that. However you're doing it wrong if you don't receive mainly negative reactions. No one likes to be told they are a sinner. No one. Speaking of absolute truth (Jesus as the only way) engenders harsh condemnation in this post-modern world. And speaking of wrath and judgment garners condemnation from fellow 'Christians' more often than not, never mind lost people.

If you’re “sharing the love of Jesus” you are sinning, because you are making it comfortable for yourself.

Never underestimate the power of the full Gospel. Occasionally someone has been prepared by the Holy Spirit to hear the message God had sent us to tell. It is the Spirit who prepares hearts and convicts of sin! We share the full message and the Spirit applies it to the heart and mind. The full message is both, wrath and hope. See Got Questions on the subject:

Question: "What is the biblical method of evangelism?"
Answer: When trying to decide how to share Christ with someone, the starting point should be the same as that of John the Baptist and Jesus Himself. Matthew 3:2 tells us that John began his ministry with the words “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Repentance refers to a “change of mind,” which implies sorrow for past offences (2 Corinthians 7:10), a deep sense of the evil of sin as committed against God (Psalm 51:4), and a conscious decision to turn from sin to God. The first words Jesus spoke when He began His public ministry were identical to John’s (Matthew 4:17).

Biblical evangelism – The good news and the bad news

The word "gospel" means "good news." While many well-meaning Christians begin their evangelistic efforts with the good news of God’s love for mankind, that message is lost on unbelievers who must first come to grips with the extent of the bad news. First, man is separated from a holy, righteous God by sin. Second, God hates sin and is “angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11). Third, death and judgment are inevitable (Hebrews 9:27). Fourth, man is wholly incapable of doing anything about the situation. Until the full extent of this bad news is presented, the good news cannot be effectively communicated.

Read more here, it's good.

I'll close with something profound Jerry Bridges said in his book Fearing God. He wrote,

"Some years ago, I prayed that God would show me more of His love. He answered that prayer by showing me more of my sin- not just specific sins I'd committed, but the sinfulness of my heart. Then I began to appreciate more His love to me."

People, preach the full Gospel, bad news first. Yes, tell of the love of Jesus,

"So long as the Christian makes it clear to unbelievers that they have sinned against God and will stand before Him to give an account…"

"So long as the Christian explains to unbelievers the just punishment and consequences for sin (and yes, we must talk about Hell as a place of torment, not merely eternal separation from God)…"

"So long as the Christian doesn’t merely name the name of Jesus, but assures unbelievers of which Jesus he is talking about (not the Jesus of Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, Islam, Oprah-ism, or any other kind of “ism”)…" (source)

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)


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The End Time: Evangelism Part 1 
The End Time: Evangelism Part 3

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Further reading:

Biblical Evangelism

Making Disciples

Watch On-the-Street-Witnessing

Personal Evangelism 101

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