Tag Archives: Evangelism

John 10:25-30 – so many eternal truths in one short passage

I’ve been focusing on this passage a lot as I added it to my Bible Memory list.  It has one fascinating and important truth after another.  The context is the “Good Shepherd” narrative where Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees.  He was asked if He was really the Christ, but they didn’t want the answer.

John 10:25–30 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

It is crucial to note that these people have seen Jesus face-to-face many times and even seen his miracles firsthand, yet they still don’t believe.

John 10:25 I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe . . .

Keep that in mind when skeptics say they’d believe if only they got a sign from God.  The Bible says they have already been given plenty of signs to know about God:

Romans 1:18–20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

And Jesus warned against asking for signs:

Matthew 16:4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

And just ask atheists if they’d worship God even if they were provided evidence that met their standards.  Many will admit that they still wouldn’t follow him.

Why didn’t the listeners believe even when they talked to the incarnate Christ in person and saw his miracles?  Because they weren’t his.  The Father hadn’t given them to Jesus.  And as Stan noted in the comments section, they believed because they were his sheep.  They didn’t believe and then become his sheep.

but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep . . . My Father, who has given them to me . . .

How are his sheep identified?  They believe Jesus, they follow Jesus and they persevere over time.

but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

So when “Christian” Leftists and other false teachers deny the Bible – which Jesus affirmed (the Old Testament) and authorized (the New Testament), then you can know they are wolves.  They don’t believe Jesus.   They don’t follow him, they follow the world.

One of the hidden blessings of the LGBTQX movement is that it makes a clear distinction between sheep and goats.  No one will have an excuse as to why they followed a false teacher.

This is an important truth for evangelism.  We should scatter the seed of the Gospel broadly and not try to guess who is and isn’t in Jesus’ flock.  We’ve all seen people who seemed highly unlikely to believe (I witness that monthly doing prison ministry) as well as those who you’d think would believe but don’t.  It glorifies God to proclaim the truth about Jesus regardless of whether people accept him.  But if people are hostile to the Gospel, then they either aren’t his sheep or it isn’t their time to believe.

And note the double assurance of perseverance: No one will snatch you out of Jesus’ hand or the Father’s hand.  You didn’t save yourself, you won’t un-save yourself, and no one else will un-save you.  That isn’t to say that you should never test yourself, just that if you have repented, believed and trust his Word then your default setting should be set on assurance.

2 Corinthians 13:5 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!

If you work really hard you can ignore the concept of predestination and salvation by grace and not works in this and other passages :-).  There is no hint that Jesus thinks that if He just badgers them some more that they will become his sheep.  Also this:

My Father, who has given them to me . . .

And note Jesus’ divinity here.  His hand = the Father’s hands. And this:

I and the Father are one.

The whole passage is so clear about sheep, goats, evidence, evangelism, predestination, perseverance of the saints and salvation by grace.  It is no accident that the “Christian” Left works overtime to dismiss the authority of the Gospel of John (and more).  Every time they do so they prove Jesus’ points.

Meditate on this passage today and enjoy the beautiful truths!

“Why do you believe in Jesus? And how can I?”

Are you equipped to answer those questions in a clear, winsome and biblical way?

I actually got an email with those two questions in the subject line.  The sender was a guy from  a Sunday school class I was teaching.  He attended with his wife, who was a committed believer, but he was a skeptic. We ended up having a great conversation about the real Gospel, the importance of reading the Bible, etc.  (We ended up leaving that church so I’m not sure of his current beliefs.  But I trust the process.)

Those are the ultimate softball questions for Christians, right?  They recognize that you believe in Jesus, they are interested in the reasons and they want to know how to do it as well.  Not all encounters will be that tailor made, but my question is this: Are you ready to give effective answers to those questions?  If you aren’t then you need to equip yourselves starting now.

I always start any evangelism / apologetics training with that anecdote.  I want people to get away from thinking that evangelism is only about knocking on doors (not that there is anything wrong with that) and pushing through hostile encounters (Jesus gave us the pearls before swine commandment in Matthew 7:6 for a reason).  I want people to be prepared, but not to give up before they start.

I highly recommend reading this book and having extra copies to share with people.  You will learn how to give an effective presentation of the Gospel, explain the main themes of the Bible and Christianity and address common objections.

P.S. There was an interesting side note with the email.  The guy was a trustee of a 3,000 person Methodist church at the time.   They didn’t even know he was an explicit non-believer.  I knew the church had agnostics in other roles who thought they are Christians, but this guy knew his real spiritual status.  Maybe churches should get to know their leaders first, and as a bonus, their members.  /sarcasm

Remember, it is called the Good News for a reason

It is bad enough that Christians aren’t more intentional about sharing the Gospel. But in a twist that Screwtape would be proud of, countless people who profess to follow Christ are actually proud about not sharing the Good News.  Michael Moore gave a good example of this when he said:

I have always believed that one’s religious leanings are deeply personal and should be kept private.

I’m not sure where he came up with that belief, but it isn’t in the Bible.  Since Moore was claiming to speak for Jesus, perhaps he should tell us how the Bible teaches that we should be private about our religious beliefs.  That would make it hard to fulfill the Great Commission: Matthew 28:19-20 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.”

A commenter named Joanne noted that:

Progressive denominations have stopped trying to proselytize with their missionaries YEARS ago. Look at Global Ministries (UCC/Disciples of Christ). They make no efforts to convert people.

She’s right, and it is pathetic that those organizations who willfully withhold the Gospel call themselves churches or “disciples of Christ.”

A regular commenter (“Sunday School Teacher”) noted this:

Our church is currently having a sermon series on Wesley’s “Three Simple Rules”.

The 1st rule is “Do No Harm”. Some people are trying to use this rule to argue that we should not try to change the religious view of others, as this could lead to conflict and thus harm.

I’m glad that SST is trying to lead his church in the right direction, but it is amazing that people learning about John Wesley would ever imagine that he’d discourage people from sharing the Gospel.  They couldn’t be more wrong.

As Paul said in Romans 1:16:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

From the Newsboys song, I’m Not Ashamed:

What are we sneaking around for?  Who are we trying to please?

Shrugging off sin, apologizing like we’re spreading some kind of disease.  I’m saying no way.  No way.

I’m not ashamed to let you know I want this light in me to show. I’m not ashamed to speak the name of Jesus Christ.

This one says, “It’s a lost cause.  Save your testimonies for church time. ” Other ones say, “You’d better wait until you do a little market research.”

I’m saying no way.  No way.

The Gospel can and will offend people.  We don’t want to add to the offense with our own style, but that is no excuse not to share it.  The bad news is that we are all sinners in need of a Savior.  The Good News — and it is still good news worth sharing — is that there is a Savior.  He is Jesus, and He is the only way to salvation.

Hear the Good News, believe the Good News and share the Good News!  But please don’t identify as a Christian if you think it is bad news and refuse to share it with others.

Here’s a conversation you don’t want to have.

Reading the entire New Testament or the entire Bible doesn’t automatically save you, but isn’t it a logical thing for Christians to progress towards?  You want to avoid this:

  • Non-Christian: So, you believe the Bible is the word of God and tells you all about your Savior and such?
  • You: Yes!
  • N-C: Have you read it all?
  • Y: Uh, not as such, no . . .
  • N-C: Not even all of the New Testament?
  • Y: Look – a squirrel!

Another thing to avoid: Talking about the importance of the 10 Commandments but not being able to name them.

I encourage everyone to read some of the Bible every day.  It doesn’t have to be a lot.  Just do it.  It will make you a better ambassador for Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Witnessing to the Witnesses (and others): Some useful tactics

A couple Jehovah’s Witnesses came by the other day and we visited for a while.  What would you think about my approach if you knew that I made the following points?

  • They are in the wrong religion
  • Their religion has characteristics of a cult
  • They are worshiping the wrong Jesus
  • Their New World Bible has some deliberate mistranslations
  • If you really love Jesus you’ll want to ensure you understand his nature properly
  • Hell is real

They must have thought I was a big meanie, right?  Just another one of those jerky know-it-all judgmental Christians.

Nope.  I made all those points quite clearly, yet the way I navigated the conversation resulted in the lead guy telling me in a sincere way at least three times what a nice guy I was (I give a lot of credit to Stand to Reason and Greg Koukl’s book Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions for this approach).

Now we all know I’m as friendly as a basket full of puppies (We do know that, right?!), but you usually wouldn’t expect that reaction after I just made all those points about their religion.  So what made the difference?  Things like this:

  • I focused on the Bible, because we both claim that is the word of God.
  • I stuck to a few key points: John 1:1* (which I knew they’d have a ready response to, even though I could counter it), John 1:3** (they weren’t ready for that), the JW rule about them not being allowed to take written materials from me, and that their New World Bible translation has easily identifiable errors.  I continually referred to the real Jesus — the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the creator in Genesis 1 and John 1, the one whose descriptions are used synonymously with those of God in the Old Testament, etc.
  • I told them I appreciated how they cared enough to go out and share what they think is true.
  • I used common foes (Mormonism, Islam) as examples before addressing the JW theological errors.
  • I noted that it doesn’t bother me that they think I’m wrong and that I think they are wrong, so we can have a friendly discussion on where we differ.
  • I realized I had said “JWs” instead of their religion’s full name then sincerely apologized if they found that shortcut offensive.  They didn’t, noting that they use it themselves, but my desire to avoid unnecessary offense seemed to resonate with them.
  • I listened carefully when they made their points.
  • We had some friendly chit-chat interspersed with the theological discussions (one guy was from Italy, so we talked a little about that).
  • It was a hot day (August in Texas!) so I gave them each a bottle of cold water as they left.
  • I gave them one of my “business” cards that has my church information, email address and blog site.  I know they are unlikely to visit, but I smiled and encouraged them to come spy on what the Protestants are up to.

Where these guys end up theologically is between them and God, but I was pleased with the interaction.  It always glorifies God when you speak the truth about him, regardless of how people respond.  And it definitely planted some seeds.  The lead guy was going to take the John 1:3 objections back to one of their experts to try and respond to me.  And my comments on the textual criticism issue seemed stick with them (i.e., that with the thousands of manuscripts we’ve found around the world from different centuries we know that the New World translation has errors).

I admit that I find using these tactics much easier in person than on-line.  But they do work.  I encourage you to try them if you haven’t already.  You can’t control their reactions, but you can speak the truth in love.

——–

*Their Bible ends John 1:1 with “a God” instead of “God.”  (The right version: John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.)

**They haven’t mistranslated John 1:3 (All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.), so you can show the logic of how Jesus can’t be a created being.  This can be used with Mormons as well.

If you can’t dictate the terms to a McDonald’s cashier, what makes you think you can do so with God?

If you authentically seek God on his terms, you will find him. If you think you get to sit in judgement of the real God, you will not find him.  If you “seek” a god of your own making, you will not find him – except in the mirror, and as you know that god has rather limited powers.  If you think that pretending He doesn’t exist will make him go away, you are mistaken.

Romans 1:18–20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

 

Romans 9:20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?

That may sound obvious, but think about how many people insist that all religions lead to God.  Lots of false teachers in churches will tell you such things.  People claim that they wouldn’t believe in a God who says that homosexual behavior is a sin or who sends guilty sinners to Hell, as if not liking someone makes them disappear.

An acquaintance once noted that he would never believe in a God that would send his Jewish friend to Hell.  What was lost on this college-educated person is that whether he liked God or not, if the one true God will send non-believers to Hell then that is what will happen.  God is not going to disappear because this guy doesn’t like his terms and conditions.  And being in Hell with his friend is not going to make it better for either of them.  Side note: If the subject weren’t so serious it would be amusing how certain people are that they will be happier in Hell or that they get to spend time with friends and family there.

They don’t recognize the absurdity of thinking something doesn’t exist just because they don’t like it or the idea that they can tell the real God what He must be like.

What if you went to a company for a job and demanded that they hire you on your terms?  Hey, go ahead and ask for a million dollar salary and unlimited vacation.  Ridiculous, eh?  But only a tiny fraction as ridiculous as thinking you are going to tell God how things must be.

Or tell the cop who pulled you over that you set the speed limits today and that he is wasting your time.  Or pretend that he doesn’t exist because you don’t like him.

Or tell your teacher that she has to give you an A+ even though you won’t come to class, do homework or take tests.

Or if you are still at home, tell your parents that you set the rules now.

Better yet, go to McDonald’s and tell the cashier to give you your entire meal for $1 because you set the prices and see how that works.

If you can’t dictate terms to the person barely and momentarily higher than you on the cosmic organization chart, what makes you think that the one true God must answer to you or that pretending He doesn’t exist will make him disappear?  

God sets the terms, not us.  His first commandments make that explicit.  Better yet, the first verse of the Bible makes that clear.

What makes anyone think they get to dictate the terms of the universe and eternal life to the one true God?  Pride.  Satanic pride (“Did God really say . . .?”).

Be bold in prayer, but know that God still sets the terms.  Ask tough questions, but know that God is ultimately just and all-knowing (also see Job 38).  Seek him earnestly, but humbly and on his terms.

Where do you find his terms?  In the Bible.  They are indescribably generous.  All you have to do is repent and trust in Jesus.  No good deeds required – though in response to his mercy and grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit you’ll be inspired to do good deeds.  Better yet, not only are all your sins forgiven but God will credit Jesus’ perfect righteousness to your account.  It is the ultimate trade, but that is the only way to get there.

If you “seek” a god of your own making, you will not find the one true God.  If you’ve been doing that, stop kidding yourself.  Eternity is a mighty long time to regret your foolish pride.

If you authentically seek God on his terms, you will find him.

Acts 17:26–27 (ESV) And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us . . .

 

Luke 11:9-13 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

If you are a believer, try using this line of thinking when sharing the Good News with others.  Ask someone what they think happens when they die, then use the 10 Commandments to point to their sinfulness and need of a Savior.  Explain how God sets the terms of engagement and how remarkably loving and generous they are.  Note how these same terms applied to you and how grateful you are for them.  If they start judging God or pretending that they can ignore him if they don’t like his ways, use any of the examples above to push a reset button on them.  They may not repent and believe on the spot, but you will disarm them of a really bad line of thinking and hopefully plant a seed that someone else will water.

Good news from the Middle East

We spent a few hours in the Dubai airport a couple years ago on our way to and from Kenya, but didn’t go out into the city.  It was a huge and wildly busy airport 24 hours a day.  Even from the airport windows the city looked beautiful.  I assumed it was as restrictive about Christianity as other Muslim nations, but apparently not.  Via Dubai: Amazing and Strategic City – Desiring God.

Proselytizing is against the law in the UAE. But what that means in essence is: You can’t pay someone to convert (as if that were possible) or unduly coerce them to change religions. But speaking the gospel of Jesus Christ abounds.

There are many Christian churches, and the ruler of the emirate is favorable to them for the sake of the expatriates. Only about 13% of Dubai’s local population is local Emirati people. The other 87% are expatriates, half of whom are of Indian descent. Thousands of these are Christians.

Therefore, the gospel sounds forth weekly in Dubai. And on the university campuses, there are organizations that aggressively seek to speak to students about what the Bible really teaches.

That is the best possible definition of proselytizing.  By definition, authentic Christian faith can’t be bought or coerced.  I hope and pray that this situation lasts and that the Gospel spreads from there to the rest of the region.

Your job description as a Christian

Well, at least part of your job description.  As I like to remind Christians, some, but not all, are called to be evangelists.

Ephesians 4:11 (ESV) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers . . .

So you may or may not be an evangelist.  But all are called to be ambassadors . . .

2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

. . . and all are called to be defenders of the faith (“apologists”).

1 Peter 3:15–16 (ESV) but in your hearts honor 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.

So if you claim the name of Christ you may or may not be an evangelist, but you are definitely an apologist and an ambassador.  The only question is whether you are doing a good job.  You will be very glad when God uses your efforts to be able to share his truths with someone who is seeking them.

As the Wintery Knight asks, Can you dispense with apologetics and just preach the gospel when evangelizing?  I think they are intertwined, especially in our culture.  If you don’t subscribe to his blog you should start.

See the Apologetics links to the right for some great resources.  If I could only recommend one site it would be Stand to Reason.  Scour the site, listen to the Podcast and read Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions and you’ll be in great shape.  CARM.org is, great, too.

Also see these PowerPoint slides that I have used for a class at church called Defending Your Faith.  You are welcome to use or adapt them.  Now get to work!

Reverse missionaries & the Great De-Commission

u-turn.jpgTypical evangelism for any religion involves someone going out at some degree of expense and risk to share what one believes to be true.  It is a pretty simple and logical concept: If you think you know the true path to forgiveness, joy, peace and eternal life and you truly care about others, then of course you’ll want to share the Good News (regardless of how you define it).

However, some people hold the view that all religions are equally valid paths to God.  As I was reflecting on the discussions on the Jesus is still the only way thread, I was reminded that people who hold the “all religions are valid” view should have a completely different model of evangelism.  Wouldn’t it be most loving for them to send “reverse missionaries” to encourage everyone to follow their local religions?  After all, consider the persecuted people around the world who could avoid pain, suffering, economic loss, prison and even death if they just held beliefs more palatable to their culture.

For example, you’d want to send people to Christians in India, N. Korea, China, all Arab countries and more to explain to them that Hinduism/Islam/Buddhism/etc. are just as good and that they should leave Christianity to maximize their comfort and happiness.  If you follow any organizations like Voice of the Martyrs you are probably familiar with how much Christians suffer for their faith in many parts of the world.  Why suffer like that if other religions are just as good?

And loving universalists (those who believe everyone is going to Heaven, regardless of what they believe) should go to China to encourage people to be atheists.

What a tragedy that hundreds of thousands or even millions of Christians died unnecessarily for their faith over the centuries.  They should have just recanted and gone with the local religion, right?

What I’ve found is that religious pluralists and universalists do no such thing. They typically think their “home religion” is correct (why else would they belong to those denominations?) but are afraid to offend someone or risk rejection for sharing their view, or perhaps are unwilling to work to learn their beliefs well enough to defend them.

Shouldn’t false teachers who insist that all religions lead to God lend their time and money to being reverse missionaries?  Yet I never hear of them undertaking such efforts to reduce the “needless” suffering of Christians around the world.  Real faith is behaving as if what you say you believe is true.  Yet these folks don’t follow through to the logical consequences of their worldview.  This is one of the easiest ways to spot false teachers.

Of course, since I hold the view that Jesus is the one way to salvation then it is on my heart to share that with people.

If you encounter “Christians” claiming that other or even all religions are valid paths to God, ask them simply and politely if that means we should end Christian evangelism efforts and “evangelize” people to follow whatever “valid” religion will result in the least persecution for them.  It will help expose their false view and hopefully encourage them to think more carefully.  They shouldn’t judge God for “only” providing one way to salvation, they should be eternally grateful that He offered a way at all.

Weekend at Bernie’s theology

A favorite updated for your reading pleasure.

I read this great metaphor at a now-defunct blog about how the false teachers who don’t believe the essentials of the Christian faith have taken over many dead churches and propped them up to suit their motives.

In the not-so-classic movie Weekend at Bernie’s, two friends prop up a dead guy to make him appear alive so they can throw parties at his house. In the same way, theological Liberals don’t believe in the essentials of the faith (Jesus is God, He is the only way to eternal life, the Bible is authoritative and accurate, etc.), so they think they have a dead church on their hands.  They don’t have faith that God can still work through his Word to transform lives and cultures.

They prop it up, though, because they like the money, the influence, the buildings and the status that comes with their leadership roles. But they are frauds. They either lied at their ordination vows or changed their minds later. Either way, if they were honest they would stop accepting payment from their members for teaching the opposite of the beliefs the church was founded upon.

Their teachings are like salt water, leaving you thinking that you are having your spiritual thirst quenched but all the while killing you.

For a better analysis, read this by Charles Spurgeon. He wrote it in 1870 but the message is still fresh and applicable.

Bait & switch = bad idea. Forgetting to switch = really bad idea.

Worldly thinking has led countless churches to avoid many truths of scripture lest they offend non-believing visitors.  And when the churches grow to serve the larger numbers they get caught in a trap of their own making.  If they shift to focus on the entire Bible, they will lose members.  Then they won’t be able to keep the doors open.  That forces them to rationalize continued diluted or false messages.

The Bible teaches that we should not use trickery to share the Gospel.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-6 You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.

Sadly, many churches water down the Gospel to avoid offending people.  They just want to get them in the door and plan to get around to the whole truth later.

Of course, we don’t want to add to the offense of the Gospel, but we shouldn’t distort it to avoid the legitimate offense.

But as bad as the bait & switch strategy is, the bigger problem is that the churches using this strategy forgot to make the switch.  And they used the bait for so long that they now think that is all they need to do.  They never get around to sharing the whole Gospel.  If your message never offends (in the appropriate Biblical sense) then you are preaching the wrong message (Hello, is Joel there?).

We shouldn’t dilute the message just to grow the numbers.  Hey, if youth groups offered free beer & p*rnography that would probably increase attendance, but are those the numbers that count?

And consider the mainline churches that continue to see declining figures.  The more “inclusive” they are the smaller they get.  They offend the world less, I suppose, but they have nothing left to offer the world, either.

I think it exhibits a lack of faith when we don’t trust God enough to preach his word in an undiluted fashion.  Does He really need us to edit it for him?

Consider this from a friend’s Facebook page:

‎The greatest revival in history took place among the most wicked people in history- the Ninevites. The message they heard was destruction was coming in forty days. Jonah impacted the whole city with this message and they responded by repenting. He had mega growth (in less than 40 days) without using mega growth methods. Here is a biblical model that worked with no problems -100% response. Jonah didn’t want to see these results but God did. Unless we learn the principle that God has not called us to be a success, but to be faithful to his message we will never learn the real meaning of our being God’s servants.

That can’t be right. What the people need is theater-style seating, entertainment and to be told how swell they are.

It is sad that people just think of the great fish when they think of Jonah, but there is so much more to that book. A reluctant preacher saying the real words of God means infinitely more than man’s “wisdom” in how to reach people.  No props, no gimmicks, no pandering, no appealing to people’s “felt needs” (unless that it is the felt need to be forgiven of one’s sins against a perfect and holy God).

Don’t distort the Gospel in an attempt to gain the whole world yet forfeit your soul.

Biology, not bigotry, and removing barriers to evangelism

I’ll support unrestricted, taxpayer-funded abortions as soon as you convince me that the unborn aren’t human beings and I’ll support government recognition of “same-sex marriage” as soon as you prove that these couples can provide a mother and a father to a child.

In both cases it is biology, not bigotry, so don’t let people silence you on these crucial topics.

You don’t have to convert people to your point of view on marriage or abortion before sharing the Gospel or pointing them to the Bible.  But for many people these are barriers to even considering Christianity.  Just having a few replies — literally just a minute or so — is often all it takes.  You can simply say, “Yes, the Bible does say it is a sin but even if it didn’t we are still separated from God by our many other sins . . .” and then point them to the cross and to God’s word (same thing for the abortion issue).  Here’s a real-life example of how to do that.

If people are hostile to it, then hold your pearls.  But don’t give up before you try.

About that guy on the island . . .

Or in the jungle. Or in the Muslim country. Or wherever. You know, the hypothetical guy that people worry about when wondering whether God is fair if everyone doesn’t get an adequate revelation about Jesus.

For many it is an honest desire that the Gospel go to all people. For others it is a rationalization for the false teaching of universalism, where everyone goes to Heaven regardless of whether they know of or trust in Jesus. For others it is an excuse to rebel against Christianity.

I have good news: The real God is sovereign. No one seeks him on his own, but if God makes him spiritually alive then he will not only seek God but he will find him. As Acts 17 notes, God knows exactly where everyone is. No one will face God and be able to offer excuses.

Acts 17:26-27 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

So if you are concerned with the hypothetical character noted above, you have a lot of options in which to channel your energy:

1. Pray for them  (Matthew 9:37-38 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”)

2. Go see them yourself and share the Good News.

3. Donate to organizations like International Cooperating Ministries that build churches around the world.  $10,000 will build a church for a congregation of ~100 people that has committed to start 5 more neighboring churches.

4. Donate to organizations like Faith Comes By Hearing that get the word of God out to people in over 600 languages via audio Bibles (Praise report: A mission team just took the first batch of Kimeru language Proclaimer audio Bibles to Kenya.  Many people will be hearing the word of God for the first time!)

5. Support Stand To Reason or other excellent Christian apologetic organizations that help equip people to defend the Christian faith in a winsome and effective way.

6. Trust in God’s sovereignty.

But whatever you do, if you claim the name of Christ then don’t act as if He isn’t perfectly just.

Defending Your Faith

I’m excited about a six-week class on Defending Your Faith that I’ll be teaching at church starting April 15.  The class will equip people with knowledge and tactics to strengthen their faith, disciple fellow Christians and reach non-Christians.

What if someone asked you, “Why do you believe in Jesus and how can I?”  Or if people said that the Bible was written by men so it must have mistakes?  Or that Christianity just borrowed its ideas from other religions?  Or that we don’t know what the original writings of the Bible really said?  Or one of the many other common objections to Christianity?  Do you have accurate and winsome responses for them?  This class will equip you with solid and easily understandable answers to common questions and objections about Christianity and the Bible.

As I like to remind Christians, some, but not all, are called to be evangelists . . .

Ephesians 4:11 (ESV) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers . . .

. . . but all are called to be ambassadors . . .

2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

. . . and all are called to be defenders of the faith (“apologists”).

1 Peter 3:15–16 (ESV) but in your hearts honor 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.

So if you claim the name of Christ you may or may not be an evangelist, but you are definitely an apologist and an ambassador.  The only question is whether you are doing a good job.

With work and practice you will get better at it.  You don’t have to be a Wintery Knight, but you will be very glad when God uses your efforts to be able to share his truths with someone who is seeking them.

See the Apologetics links to the right for some great resources.  If I could only recommend one site it would be Stand to Reason.  Scour the site, listen to the Podcast and read Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions and you’ll be in great shape.

There is a list of some good books to get started at An apologetics Reading Plan for Beginners.  Here are some I’ve read or plan to read:

The ten books on the reading plan below are selected specifically for the beginner in apologetics. They are on the list because of their accessibility and their quality of content. The order is provided as a progressive reading plan for those just getting started. Working through this list should give the novice a good foundation before moving on to more advanced titles.

1. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

All of Lee Strobel’s books are required reading for two reasons. First, they are good introductions to the subject and provide a good overview of the material from some of the best scholars in their fields. Second, the writing style is very accessible, taking you alongside a journalist in his investigation of the evidence for Christianity. In this particular title, Strobel focuses on the life and identity of Jesus.

2. The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel

This book is just as readable as The Case for Christ, but this one delves into the evidence for the Creator. Another thing that makes this good reading for the beginner is this: whatever areas you find particularly interesting can be pursued further by reading the sources interviewed in the book.

3. The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

In The Case for Faith, Strobel moves from making a positive case for Christ and a Creator to defending Christianity from some common criticisms and objections. This one deals with the hard faith questions such as the problem of pain and suffering and issues of doubt. Again, all three of the Lee Strobel books are a great starting point for the beginner.

**Interlude: Watch the The Lee Strobel Film Collection

At this point, now you can take a break from your reading and actually watch a series of three DVDs that are about an hour each. These excellent documentaries follow the same content as the books, along with interviews with experts and specialists. This is a great refresher for what you have read and also makes for a great small group resource and a DVD to lend to a friend.

6. Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl

Information without application results in stagnation when it comes to apologetics. That’s why it’s time for a good dose of Tactics, which will train you not only to use apologetic content in everyday life, but it will also train you to be a better, more critical thinker. This is another “must read” book, and mastering its contents early in your apologetic studies will put feet to your faith.

7. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Mike Licona & Gary Habermas

The resurrection of Jesus is central to Christianity. This book equips you to understand and defend the resurrection from an historical perspective. Not only does the book have useful diagrams, summaries, and an accessible style, but it also comes with a CD-ROM with interactive software for teaching you the material. This is an essential book for the apologist.

9. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist by Geisler & Turek

Geisler and Turek have authored a great apologetics book that also takes a step-by-step approach to showing that Christianity is true—and it’s filled with lots of information. This gives the growing beginner a ton of good content, while strengthening the framework of a cumulative case for Christianity. This book will help to grow your overall general apologetic knowledge as well.

Is forgiveness possible?

ER

A friend reminded me of this clip so I wanted to run it again.  The video is fictional, of course, but the premise occurs countless times every day around the world: People need and want forgiveness, but the world tells them lies.

Christianity has the truth and the Good News, but far too many people claiming the name of Christ are unequipped and/or unwilling to share it, even when asked.  If that applies to you, then do something about it.  Right away!  I recommend Tactics by Greg Koukl as a great way to learn how to share your faith as an effective ambassador and apologist for Christ, just as the scriptures command.

2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
1 Peter 3:15–16 (ESV) but in your hearts honor 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.

—–

It was surprising but so encouraging to see that the clip below was on the TV show ER a couple years back.

The chaplain is the classic fake Christian you’d expect to find in most theologically liberal churches today.  I love how the patient doesn’t buy her “just make up a god in your own image” type of platitudes.

The money quotes from the dying patient:

All I’m hearing is some new age “God is love” one-size-fits-all crap . . . I don’t have time for this now . . . I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real Hell . . . I don’t need to “ask myself,” I need answers, and all your questions and uncertainty are only making things worse . . .

I need someone who will look me in the eye and tell me how to find forgiveness, because I am running out of time!

Hey Christians, time to fire up!  Some people don’t want the truth.  But there are lots of real people like this in the world who need and want the truth.  They must be so sick of the lies and the politically correct “God is whoever you want him to be” nonsense taught by the world and by far too many churches.  Is it really so hard to understand that you do not get to tell the creator of the universe how eternity works?  You don’t set the terms and conditions of salvation any more than you get to tell your boss to triple your pay and give you 50 weeks of vacation, or tell your teacher that he must give you an A without you coming to class.

Are you ready to tell people the truth and the Good News?  Forgiveness, redemption and eternal life are possible, but only through trust in Jesus.