Thursday, March 26, 2020

Six “Do Nots” for Evangelism—from the Old Testament

The Old Testament is rich in describing Christian evangelism. This wealth complements New Testament teaching and practice. The Old Testament encourages an unusually bold witness in many ways. For example, there are at least six “do nots” for evangelism in the Old Testament that describe the bold witness that we find lived out on the pages of the New Testament.
  • Be Not Afraid

“O Zion, You who bring good tidings, Get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, You who bring good tidings, Lift up your voice with strength, Lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’” Isaiah 40:9.
God told the seasoned evangelist, the Apostle Paul, “Be not afraid, but go on speaking and do not keep silent.” Acts 18:9. Be not afraid seems to be the first and foremost message that the Holy Spirit would speak to Christ followers in the face of an evangelism opportunity.
  • Do Not Restrain Your Lips

“I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness In the great assembly; Indeed, I do not restrain my lips, O Lord, You Yourself know.” Psalm 40:9.
The fear of man leads to a deceptively pious restraint. This restraint takes on many faces: “Is now the best time? Maybe God will give me a better opportunity tomorrow?” “Perhaps I have not yet built up a proper relationship with this person.” “I don’t think that they are not really interested in spiritual things anyways.” King David in Psalm 40 affirmed, “Indeed, I did not restrain my lips.”
  • Do Not Hide

I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation.” Psalm 40:10.
The rulers of the Jews in John 12 hid their faith in Jesus, lest they be put out of the synaguogue. Their course of action was not confirmed by the Holy Spirit. Rather it was condemned. “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” John 12:42-43. King David did not hide the righteousness of God in His heart, but rather, he openly declared His salvation.
  • Do Not Conceal

I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth From the great assembly.” Psalm 40:10.
Right in the heels of “hiding” our knowledge of God and His salvation in our hearts, David continued synonymously. He affirmed that he had not “concealed” the love of God and the truth of God from the great assembly. King David remembered that he had not kept “concealed” within himself the glorious knowledge of the grace and truth of God.
  • Do Not Be Silent

On your wallsO Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent.” Isaiah 62:6.
God combined His words from both Isaiah 62 and Isaiah 40 (as noted above), when he told Paul in the night by a vision, “Be not afraid, but go on speaking and do not keep silent.” Acts 18:9. Once fear has chilled the heart of the Christian, his lips freeze shut in silence. On the other hand, when told to keep silent, Peter and John stated, “We cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:20. God commanded Paul, “Be not silent.”
  • Do Not Rest

You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest.” Isaiah 62:6.
Ultimately, our Blessed Hope is a heavenly rest. Our hope is not for a comfortable earthly rest. The Christian must put to death the selfish indulgence of laziness. While keeping all the responsibilities of life in a proper balance, particular attention needs to be taken to assure that we are not living in sloth evangelistically. Living a godly lifestyle, while necessary, is not a substitute for verbal evangelistic activity. So much have I felt this drift toward neglect within myself, that I purposefully carve out time for initiative evangelism into my regular weekly schedule—admittedly, the Coronavirus Pandemic and my wife’s simultaneous pneumonia has put a temporary hold on this activity. God commands His people, “Take no rest.”
Six “do nots” from the Lord from the Old Testament: be not afraid, do not restrain your lips, do not hide, do not conceal, do not be silent, and do not rest. A powerful message from the Holy Spirit. May these be taken as divine encouragement for all of God’s children.

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Christian’s Spiritual Interrelationship with Christ and God in Evangelism

“The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.” Luke 10:16 (NASB, also used below).
This verse on the disciple’s union with Christ and God in the reception and rejection of the gospel message is very striking indeed. According to this verse, when Jesus’ disciplea were proclaiming the good news—the context of this verse is the “Second Sending Passage in Luke”—their reception or rejection triggered or exemplified the hearer’s reception or rejection of the Godhead.
Consider several points here. This verse is not a one-off verse in the gospels. Jesus repeated this same interrelationship on two other occasions in Matthew 10:40 (before Judas went out for evangelism as one of the Twelve) and John 13:20 (spoken before Judas departed from the Twelve to betray Jesus).
“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” Matthew 10:40.
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” John 13:20.
Luke is the only biographer of Jesus who cited Jesus on the rejection of the gospel proclaimer. Four times Luke records Jesus using the verb “reject.” However, in both Matthew and John, Jesus focused His words—in those contexts—only on the hearer’s positive reception.
Amazingly, none of these three Scripture passages appears to be discussed in Shedd’s Dogmatic Theology,[1] Erickson’s Christian Theology,[2] nor in Grudem’s Systematic Theology.[3] Culver mentions Matthew 10:40 in light of the contextual apostolic mission,[4] without necessarily applying its teaching to all gospel proclamation. Garrett, in his Systematic Theology, cited Matthew 10:40 in light of a discussion of Jesus’ commission in John 20:21-23.[5] None of the above authors appear to have cited Luke 10:16 or John 13:20 in their systematic theologies. 
This omission is surprising, being that these verses do not appear inconsequential in understanding the God-Man interrelationship as explained in Scripture. Twelve other Scripture passages discuss this same concept (Exodus 16:8; 1 Samuel 8:7; Psalm 69:9; Ezekiel 3:6-7; Matthew 5:11-12; Mark 9:37; Luke 6:22-23, 26; John 15:20-21; 16:2-3; Hebrews 11:24-26; 12:3-4; and 1 John 4:5-6).[6]
Even more powerful than the amazing interrelationship of the disciple with God is the “plenipotentiary” element invested in the Christian act of evangelizing.[7] It appears that there is a spiritual oneness with God, invested in the act of evangelizing, that triggers an avalanche of spiritual activity around that act.
When a true follower of Christ engages in true gospel proclamation, a tsunami of spiritual forces unleash. The Word of God “judges the thoughts and intents of the heart,” laying bare every hidden thing (Hebrews 4:12-13). “Satan comes immediately” seeking to dislodge the Word from entering the hardpacked soil of the heart (Mark 4:15). The Holy Spirit convicts of “sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8). The “god of this world” actively works to blind the minds of unbelievers lest “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ should shine on them” (2 Cor 4:4). Meanwhile, the lost person—hearing the gospel—maybe for the first time—is confronted with a decision: reception or rejection. Reception or rejection of who? Not only the person speaking to him or her, but Christ and God Himself.
According to Jesus, receiving or rejecting the herald is much more than receiving or rejecting a Christian lovingly, humbly, and boldly telling of salvation available only by the blood of Jesus—sins forgiven—peace with God—guilt and shame blotted out.
The person may once, twice, maybe many times reject the gospel. The apostle Paul sure did. Prayerfully that person will one day hear and receive the evangelist—the Christ of whom he speaks—ultimately receiving God himself. But the odds are not good (Matthew 7:13-14). An eternal decision will be sealed one way or the other. The reception or rejection of the gospel herald, and simultaneously the reception or rejection of the Creator God.
“And who is adequate for these things?” 2 Corinthians 2:16.
How could it be that God would invest the decision for or against His eternal covenant bought by the blood of Jesus Christ into the efforts and mouths of His feeble followers? And such He has done. Yes, it is a sublime mystery.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” 2 Corinthians 4:7.

[1]William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology (New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1888 [1st ed.], 1889 [2nd ed.], 1894 [3 vol]; Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2003).
[2]Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983, 1984, 1985).
[3]Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: InterVarsity, 1994; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994).
[4]“The second purpose, that ‘he might send them out to preach,’ was completed in part when they returned from their first mission to announce to the Jews then living in northern Palestine the presence of the promised Messianic King and his kingdom (Matt. 10:5-7; cf. Luke 8:1-10). They did so as ministers plenipotentiary (Matt. 10:40)” (Robert Duncan Culver, Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical [Fearn, Ross-shire: Mentor, 2005], 843).
[5]“Preceded by the blessing of peace and followed by the reception of the Holy Spirit and the remission and retention of sins through the disciples [cf. John 20:21-23], the Johannine commission connects the mission of the Twelve with Jesus’ own mission from the Father. Do we have here only an analogy? Or does the mission of the Son form the ground and basis of the apostolic mission? The latter seems more likely (see Matt. 10:40).” (James Leo Garrett, Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical, 2 vols, 2nd ed [North Richland Hills, TX: BIBAL, 2005], 2:536).
[6]Overlooking such a repeated concept appears likely for several reasons: (1) the power of precedent; (2) the framing of questions of salvation and conversion; (3) interpreting all these texts as applying only to their immediate context; and (4) widely divergent views on necessity, value, and means of evangelizing. By the way, these verses represent a fraction of the material on this topic. Consider also studies on Paul's use of "working together with God," and being "fellow-worker with Christ." There are a great number of analogous topics, indicating ministry by individual Christians on behalf of God in the name of Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2).
[7]Culver (ibid.). Plenipotentiary means “invested with full power.”

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Divine Nature of the Bible

The term “Bible” is used in the title of this article because I speak of true words on a page. Sometimes the term “Word of God” applies to an ethereal ideal that has no basis in today’s world. The following text addresses the divine nature of the Bible, the Scriptures, or the Word of God.
My thoughts move to the Psalmist’s description of words on a page as found in Psalm 119. This man of God interweaved four concepts that portray the divine nature of the words of the Word of God, rightly transferred and applied to the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures, as well as to the New Testament.
  • God’s Word is eternal. 

While mentioned four times in Psalm 119:89, 144, 152, and 160, perhaps one verse will be enough to exemplify the Psalmists view of the eternality of Special Revelation: Psalm 119:152, “Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them forever.”
  • God’s special revelation is both righteous and upright. 

Another truth repeated across the pages of Scripture and in 10 verses of Psalm 119: 62, 75, 106, 123, 128, 137, 138, 144, 160, and 164. Here are two verses that repeat these ideas several times: Psalm 119:137-138, “Righteous (tsedeq) art Thou, O Lord, And upright (yashar) are Thy judgments. Thou hast commanded Thy testimonies in righteousness (tsedeq) And exceeding faithfulness.”
  • The truthfulness of God’s words 

Is reaffirmed in Psalm 119:43, 142, 151, and 160. For example, Psalm 119:160 reads, “The sum of Thy word is truth, And every one of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting.”
  • So also, God’s special revelation is deemed faithful

In Psalm 119:86 and 138. Psalm 119:138 reads, “Thou hast commanded Thy testimonies in righteousness And exceeding faithfulness.”
These four characteristics, eternality, righteousness, truth, and faithfulness are divine truths. The Psalmist seems to approach the Bible as if it were a divine book, not-at-all tainted by the sin nature of man. So also, a Psalm of David attributes to the written Word of God all the attributes of God:
Psalm 138:2, “For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.”
If, in fact, these things are true, would not God be required to create a “womb” around His Words, much like Jesus was kept pure from the sin nature of man within the womb of Mary? This womb would have to protect the original inscription of the individual words, and also the transcription of those words over the years.
It is clear that there is a mystery in the God-man homeostasis at work in all these processes. Further, it is obvious that the “serpent of old” was not asleep as God’s words became living and active agents of His will within this world. Yes, there are many complexities involved:
  • Original inscription of the words from the mind of God and the mind of the human author.
  • Original inscription of the words onto some type of medium: stone, velum, or papyrus.
  • Transcription by numerous scribes through the years with the oversight of leaders: Priests and Levites for the Hebrew Scriptures, Bishops and Pastors for the New Testament Scriptures.
  • The inevitability of some scribal error in the transcription processes.
  • The storage, guarding, and maintenance of “best texts” by Bishops and Pastors within the history of the churches.
  • The translation of these original language texts into the many languages of the world.

It appears, from Scripture, that God continues to guard these procedures. While they are not beyond the impact of “savage wolves … not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29). God promised to preserve His words, and He is doing so in His way. Paul could speak to the Ephesian elders with divine assurance:
Acts 20:32, “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
The “word of His grace” would preserve God’s people from the “savage wolves” he prophesied would ravage the flock of God. The only way that these words of grace could fulfill their promise of inheritance and accomplish their work of sanctification is if they themselves continued to perform these designated divine duties. God must-needs preserve His words. He has not left them to be devoured and twisted by the corruptions of men.
Psalm 12:6-7, “The words of the Lord are pure words, Like silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times. You shall keep them, O Lord, You shall preserve them from this generation forever.”
How God is accomplishing this feat remains within the depth of the riches of His unsearchable wisdom.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Four EV Motives (Noah Long)

Recently I had lunch with Midwestern Baptist Seminary student Noah Long, and he shared with me these four evangelism (EV) motives that spoke to my heart. I hope they do so to yours also...

1. Glory- We are motivated to evangelize because it brings God glory. We desire to see our Creator and Savior be rightly worshipped in our community and around the world. When we cease to open our mouthes about the Gospel, God is robbed of glory. (Psalm 51:13-15; 96; 105:1-2)

2. Obedience- We are motivated to evangelize because we have been commanded to do so. All Christians are called to make disciples, to be ministers of reconciliation, to be salt and light, to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. When we cease to share the Gospel, it is impossible to make disciples or live out any of these callings that the Lord has called us to. (Matt. 5:13-16; 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, 2 Cor. 5:17-20)

3. Imitation- We are motivated to evangelize because we desire to be conformed to the image of Christ. God is a missionary God who came to seek and save the lost. In the same way that Christ pursued us when we were rebelling against Him, we are to mimic Him by pursuing those who are lost. (Matt. 5:45-48; Luke 19:10, Romans 5:6-8, 1 Cor. 11:1)

4. Love- We are motivated to evangelize because we are called to love our neighbor as self which includes those outside of the church. The primary and most urgent way that we can love our neighbors is by meeting their greatest need; their greatest need is spiritual brokenness, and the only anecdote for their spiritual need is the Gospel. (Lev. 19:33-34, Matt. 5:44, Mark 12:28-31)

Monday, May 20, 2019

Evangelizology: A Holy Moment in Brazil

Evangelizology: A Holy Moment in Brazil: We crossed a small bridge walkway from the sidewalk to enter into the house of W___, a blind man. He and his wife were waiting for us. ...

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A Holy Moment in Brazil

We crossed a small bridge walkway from the sidewalk to enter into the house of W___, a blind man. He and his wife were waiting for us. Their São Paulo living room was furnished with three sofas organized in a u-shape and a small coffee table in the center. Although there was five of us visiting from the local Baptist church, W___ and his wife seemed very pleased to welcome us.
The conversation consisted of Portuguese words of welcome and thanks. Being the lone “American on a Mission Trip” in the group, it was not long before everyone looked to me to lead the conversation. What was I going to say?
Speaking through a gifted interpreter, I told W___ that we were visiting him in the name of Jesus. I asked him if I could begin by sharing something that had happened to me in 1980. He said, “Yes.” Following his approval, I explained that I had believed in Jesus from a young age. And though I believed in Jesus I was still injured in a train-truck collision at the age of 19. One day, as I worked as a garbageman, our truck stalled on the railroad tracks right in front of a freight train.
The collision left me in a coma for 8 days. It took me almost a year to recuperate and to begin sorting out my post-accident life. People told me that I should feel fortunate that I was still alive. They explained that I could have died. Rather than accepting their encouragement, I was inwardly mad at God. Why had God allowed me that trauma, pain, and embarrassment? 
I asked W___ a question:
“How have you responded to God regarding your blindness? Have you struggled with God like I have?”
As W___ shared his story, a torrent of tears began to flow from this large man in his 40s. He removed his mirrored-lens glasses and wiped his eyes. Apparently, he also had been in an accident at the age of 19. It was a motorcycle accident. He broke both his legs. He explained to us that as he lay in his hospital bed, he told God, “If you get me out of here, I will serve you for the rest of my life!”
After being released from the hospital W___ quickly returned to drinking with his friends. One month later, while he was getting drunk in a bar with his friends, W___ remembered his promise to God. Soon after he gradually began to lose his eyesight. W___ was under deep conviction, sobbing as he shared. He felt that God had punished him with blindness because he did not keep his hospital promise to God.
I asked W___ if he knew that the last words of Jesus on the cross were, “It is finished!” (John 19:38). I continued, “Do you know what was finished?” I used these words to explain the essence of the gospel. Jesus lived a perfect-sinless life. He obeyed all the laws of the Old Testament. Then, when He died on the cross, as a substitute for our sins. Jesus paid for all the sins of W___ sins full and free. He did it all! All of W___’s sins past, present, and future were carried away by the blood of Jesus. And in their place, the righteousness of Christ was given to all those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. 
I asked W___ the question, “W___, if you died tonight are you absolutely sure you would get into heaven?” He answered, “No.” I continued, “W___, if Jesus said, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’ what would you answer?” He said, “I would say, ‘Even if you don’t let me in, I will still believe in You!’”
We were all moved by W___’s humble and broken heart. The missionary who was with us explained the steps of repentance and faith in Portuguese. W___ and his wife tearfully repented and believed. Their tears of grief became tears of joy!
A holy moment transpired around those three sofas. It was definitely a God-moment. The glory of God seemed to glow in the tiny room as the name Jesus was lifted up.
After leaving the house of W___, we ascended his road to a commercial street on the crest of the hill. Once there we began handing out gospel tracts and engaging persons in gospel conversations.
As we walked the commercial street sharing the gospel another unusual conversation took place. We were walking as a group—four men and one woman handing out tracts. Suddenly a young woman named D___ came up to us and said, “I want to be saved!” I pulled out a gospel tract and began to explain the gospel. She said, “I really want to be saved.” At that moment I considered that someone else had spoken with her on one of the four other days that we had evangelized on that street. D___ appeared to be under strong conviction. I asked her if she was ready to repent of her sins and confess Jesus as her Savior and Lord right now. She said, “Yes.” D___ prayed a prayed of repentance and faith.
In about an hour of evangelism God gave us two amazing and memorable conversations. The lives of W___ and D___ were eternally touched by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In like manner, Peter answered the question of Jesus:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.(John 6:68-69).
On that day in Brazil, we experienced eternity touching the earth through the words of Christ!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Seven signals of revival in our time

Although not qualified to speak of the revival of biblical Christianity in other language groups across the world, in the English-speaking U.S., these past 10-20 years, there seems to exist an unusual movement of the Holy Spirit. Could it be that God is allowing us to live in the midst of a spiritual awakening?
Here is a list of seven pointers portraying God’s favor upon His people in North America. These signs are organized in a chronological manner, as, in God’s providential oversight, each builds upon the other:
1. Incredible electronic Bible study software are available and being used. These software packages are self-supporting and compete with one another to provide better usability and power in Bible study!
2. New conference venues have sprouted up, such as the Foundations Conference, Founders Conference, Passion Conference, and T4G. These conferences highlight the Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation and promote biblical Christianity.
3. YouTube, Podcasts, and Vimeo promote the revival of expository preaching online.
4. New ministry associations have developed, such as Acts 29, 9Marks, The Gospel Coalition, Teaching Leaders International, and NoPlaceLeftBehind.
5. Doctrinally-rich music is being written, new hymnals are being produced, and Internet music channels are now available that highlight doctrinally-rich music—Sound+Doctrine. Songs have been written by LeCrae, members of Click116, the Getty’s, Derek Webb, Eric Schumacher, and David L. Ward—all emphasizing sound doctrine.
6. A new thrust of young street evangelists and those aggressively “searching for persons of peace” has begun to mark the land. Biblical methods of evangelism are realigning its practice across North America!
7. Antagonism to the gospel and to the many teachings of the Bible is on the increase. Satan is aggressively targeting the ministry leaders of all these newly formed groups.
Is Holy Spirit revival sweeping the land? It may very well be!