Spiritual Warfare Prep

Spiritual Warfare Prep
We Are In The Lord's Army

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Angels Cry 'Holy' - Do We?

   If we had eyes to see God right now, we would not even be able to stand. We would be flat on our faces and totally, completely amazed and in awe.
   Isaiah was one such person who saw God's glory and he became undone. You can read his account in Isaiah 6. Another person who was affected by the reality of God's presence was Peter. He and his companions were trying to catch fish one night, but nothing was happening. The livelihood of these men depended upon catching fish. This was not a good night for them. They had met Jesus not too long before this, so they were beginning to understand new things. But this morning they saw a new dimension of God. Peter's eyes were opened to something beyond amazing. Jesus was his teacher now, but something new, something different was about to happen. Jesus told the men to put out their nets, but Peter argued. I can imagine Peter was thinking that since Jesus wasn't a fisherman, He really didn't know much about the trade. But Peter immediately changed his mind and they put the nets out. There were so many fish in the nets after this that the nets were breaking! The men stood in amazement. They were in awe. It wasn't about the amount of fish they caught. It was because they knew they were in God's presence. They didn't really understand that until that moment. Peter was in awe, so much that he told the Lord to go away from him because he was a sinful man. That is what happens to us when we see God. We see our sins before us. But God provided a covering for our sins by sending His Son to die in our place for our sins.
   You can read Peter's story in Luke 5. I believe we can all see God if we really want to. God will give us eyes to see Him with. We will never be the same, once we see Him.
   The way we write our posts will be affected. Everything we do will be affected once we see God. I have a feeling we will not spend so much time arguing over doctrine and petty things, if our eyes are opened and we see God's presence around us.
   We talk about God's holiness and have a good understanding of it theologically, but does it affect us personally? Or are other things more important to us than being in God's presence?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Revisiting Saint Francis Again

  "Preach the Gospel. Use words if necessary" supposedly quoted by Saint Francis, is one of those quotes that seems to have valid arguments both ways. Both sides of the argument have good points that we need to consider when evangelizing. But as I think of this quote, there really is more to it. I think the quote is implying something that asks the wrong question. So, we need to identify what is the wrong question, why is it wrong, and what is the right question.
   The argument is valid. One side claims that you can preach the Gospel without having to proclaim the Gospel. In other words, people can look at your life and figure out the Gospel and consequently, get saved. The other side says that people can only be saved if they hear the Gospel. Who's right though?
  As the arguments progress (which really is a good thing, as long as the arguments are done in the spirit of love) it looks like both sides are, in a sense, saying something similar, although not exactly the same thing. Most will agree that a person who evangelizes needs to be living a life that matches what he or she is proclaiming. That makes perfect sense. The difference between the two sides is really a matter of deciding if a person can get saved without hearing the Gospel.
   First, let's take into consideration the fact that most people hear the Gospel in bits and pieces. Somewhere he hears a Bible verse or Scriptures telling of his need for a Savior. Someone else comes along who is a Christian and invites him to a church event which depicts the resurrection of Christ. A billboard explains that in life there are many choices, but eternity only has two. A couple of years later, he finds a tract explaining that lust is the same as committing adultery. Then he watches a move called, 'The Passion of the Christ". All this time, God is preparing this man's heart to respond to the Gospel. While his son and wife are in the hospital, a family steps in to minister and serve where this family has needs. They are devout believers and share the Gospel on a regular basis. This man experienced many opportunities to hear 'seeds' of the Gospel, and, finally after years of God's working in his heart, he comes to Christ.
   Every person who comes to Christ has to hear the Gospel, whether it be in the form of many seeds over a period of time, or someone just sharing the Gospel in love with him or her. But, there is something very effective about serving people and living a life of love for others. The key word here is 'living a life of love for others'. We can serve people with everything we have, and still miss the boat on ministering the Gospel. It is never wrong to serve someone, but serving by itself is not the same as sharing the Gospel.
   Part of the problem with serving others with love, is that we really don't know what love is. Yes, most of us have heard or read 1 Corinthians 13 and are familiar with that 'love' chapter. Knowing about something and living something out are two different things though. We hear about God's love for us, but we really don't have a clue what that means. Unfortunately, to an unregenerate mind, it means a self centered, self serving type of love, where we are the objects being served and catered to. We use God like an idol, because we think His love is like that. Love involves a lot more. It involves sacrifice for the success of others. If we really love someone, we will lay down our lives for them. But this can be tricky. We can sacrifice and give up things thinking we are serving and loving, but it is for a different motive, so many times.
   We see many organizations that give their all to help the weak and orphans. We see men stepping in to protect little girls, who are so vulnerable. We give lots of money to organizations that help children get well. We donate blood because we care about those who need to receive more blood. Human beings are created in God's image and, although this image is severely marred because of Adam's sin, some things still shine through, like compassion. Even rotten people can have compassion. It's part of being created in God's image. However, it doesn't mean that we are born again. Many of these organizations are founded by people who are not Christians. So then, what does love look like? Real love, that is?
   Love involves sacrifice. It involves laying down our agenda, for someone else's benefit. It involves dying to our own wants and happiness, so others can be happy and safe. Some examples of this kind of love are: Eight young men decide to renounce everything they could have because they live in America, and going to a slave-trading island to reach the slaves there for the Gospel. This mission doesn't involve just giving money to some people in a far away place, nor is this mission one that will last just a couple of weeks. The young men are now living and working among the slaves and owners that live on this island.  Another example is a young country preacher sensing a call to go to the inner city of New York and eventually move his family there to minister to gangsters. The family leaves their home with no promise of anything, and relocates to New York leaving family and comforts behind. God puts a love in their hearts for the young gangsters who live in NYC. There are many, many more examples of people showing love, out of the love they have received from God.
   Perhaps a better question to ask than 'Can a person come to Christ by just watching a Christian living out their lives?' would be, 'Why do we evangelize?'. Are we doing evangelism because we don't want people to go to hell (which isn't a wrong reason in itself)? Are we doing evangelism because we feel pressured? Do we evangelize because we have friends in the church who do evangelism and we want to be accepted by them? There are thousands of reasons we might do evangelism, but there is only one reason why we should do it. The reason is, because of the love that God has put into our hearts. This sounds shallow to some Old Timers, because, like I said, we don't understand what love really is. It goes back to the definition and meaning of love. Everything we do, in our Christian walk, is to be done with love, and because of love. If we do anything out of duty (because we have to, or because we should) it is not out of love.
   The answer of 'love' answers both sides of Saint Francis's quote. If we truly love, our lives will manifest it (demonstration). If we love, we will proclaim the Gospel (proclamation). We need to have both in our lives on a regular basis. This will happen as we abide in the Vine. This will happen as we grow spiritually. This will be an outworking of our salvation.
   People need to see demonstration as well as proclamation. The shortcoming of this would be, for example, street evangelism. We can do evangelism on the streets and be very productive. Those who we share the Gospel with, will not necessarily see the demonstration of our lives, but, perhaps they will have seen the demonstration in someone else's life, which will be helpful. And even though they won't see the demonstration in our lives, necessarily, that doesn't mean we have an excuse to live like we want to, in a selfish way, nor is it an excuse for others to not preach the Gospel, since we are commanded to do so (Mark 16:15). We might be the only Bible that some people will get to read. Some will read our lives. Others will hear, from our mouths, the Gospel we preach. But if we preach the true Gospel, but live outside of it, we are only fooling ourselves, and God will not be honored in our evangelism endeavors.
   The main thing to remember is that God does the work in the heart. Whether it be from a person observing the Gospel or hearing the Gospel, God makes His truth real to people. And God works in our hearts to receive His grace to change and to give away what He has given to us. We sow the seeds, but God does the watering and harvesting.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Strange Fire in the Church

   I am really distressed this week as I heard about this conference put out by John MacArthur called, 'Strange Fire', but as I think more upon this, I think I am coming to the bottom of the pile of what is really disturbing me about this. Even more serious than this conference is, I am seeing something really ugly in the body of Christ that is happening, especially in America and our Western culture today. I will attempt to explain what is bothering me.
   Earlier in the week I struggled with people who are Pelagians. These people have a different Gospel which believes that people can choose whether they want to sin or not. According to them, we don't have sinful hearts we are born with, but we sin because we choose to. But even worse, is their belief that salvation is two-fold. 1. We must believe in Christ's death on the Cross  and 2. We must follow God in obedience. As one Pelagian stated, 'Jesus wouldn't give us a commandment to obey, if it were impossible for us to obey it'. This doctrine is definitely heresy and I will fight for the truth and learn how to respond to those who hold this view. I want to manifest God's grace as I present truth. That is what I am learning this week.
  But my real struggle is, and has been, with 'Christians' who hold contempt for other Christians that they don't agree with. For example, this whole activity of finding and exposing 'false teachers' has gone way out of the boundaries of Scriptures. The Bible is very clear that we should expose false teachings. We should never receive 'another Gospel' (not that there is any). The Bible is clear that we should rightly divide the word. We should be discerning. We should love the truth so much that we should be willing to die for it. But, the Bible doesn't have many examples of Jesus, Peter, or Paul taking people and slamming them because they are false teachers.
  As I was reading the Scriptures this morning, I read about a man Paul pointed out who was doing him great harm. I think there were two verses on it. That was it. Paul didn't write letters or articles against those who were false teachers, and even those doing him harm. Even Peter, who has a lot to say about false teachings, doesn't mention anyone by name. He points out who they are to the people he is writing to, and they knew who these people were, but even that was short. How does that compare to us in the church in America today?
   There are a couple of things to keep in mind. One of them is that today, there is a tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water, especially in the church. For example, if someone believes apostles are for today, we call that person a false teacher. But we don't stop there. We tear that person apart. What does the Bible say we should do? How are we to treat those who don't agree with us in our interpretation of the Scriptures? Does the Bible say to hate them? Yes, when we tear someone apart by name calling or speculations, we hate. More than that, we are slandering. We are not 'warning' the body of Christ. We are using our knowledge, whether our facts are true or not, to put down someone. Why do we do this? Because we haven't put to death our own flesh. We think we have, but in reality, we are arrogant Christians. We are bullying other members of the body of Christ around by slandering. We can rename this all we want. We can convince ourselves that we are 'loving' the body of Christ when in reality we are using our God given authority to wound others. I like the phrase in the Casting Crowns song which says, 'The Sword is not ours to wield'. God has given us His authority, and His word is a sword. We are using this sword to destroy others in His name. I think God is repulsed with what we are doing.
   We really don't understand Biblically, the subject of exposing false doctrine and the hidden works of the devil. One of the main reasons for this is, that we have not dealt with our pride. We are so deceived that we don't even think we have pride! I can give you my testimony on this. When our church first started 28 years ago, we had a thorough teaching on pride, based on Scriptures. I never saw myself as prideful. I thought I was ok, but when I studied this subject, I realized that there is pride in many different areas of my life that has to be dealt with, if God were going to work in my life and use me for anything. Also, on the other hand, learning about humility. Forget any aspirations of becoming great in the kingdom of God without humility. Humility does not come easily to any of us. It has to be cultivated. We have to pursue it. The Bible is clear that God will resist us with pride. God will respond to us when we are humble, and only when we are humble. Pride has to be dealt with daily in our lives. We have to put it to death. Humility and love are concerned with others being successful, even at our expense. If I love someone (which the Bible commands and God promises to give grace for) then I will want the object of my love, whoever that is, to be successful in God, even at my own expense.
   Christians in underground countries experience the power of God in a way American Christians don't. I have always wondered why. I believe the Lord showed me the main reason why is because of our pride. We always have a back up system if God doesn't come through. Plus, should God do miracles in our midst, we would take credit for it. We would want the recognition for it. We are glory stealers. Citizens of countries that are poor or under Communist rule don't have this option. If God doesn't come through for them, they are toast. But God does come through for them. Even those in remote countries are hearing the Gospel. Many are coming to Christ. Miracles do take place. The blind are receiving their sight. God is moving in these Third world countries. But why not in America?
   Two reasons why God isn't moving in America. Maybe more. First is pride in the church. Second is lack of love in the church. Another one though, is that some church leaders really don't believe in the supernatural power of God to work. There could be a lot of reasons for this, but, I think one of them is simply, a lack of faith in who God is. God says He is many things. He is healer, provider, sovereign, supernatural, love, Father, etc. We tend to shy away from these things because it is hard for us to believe that God would do supernatural things in our midst. I actually had a Jehovah's Witness lady tell me that the devil was the one who healed me when I was healed from certain things. I fear for the body of Christ in America today, because we are limiting God because of our lack of faith, or maybe just ignorance on what He could do in our midst if we let Him. Our thinking is just as bad as the Jehovah's Witness lady!
   The other reason really goes back to the lack of love issue. We really are not charitable to our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. We look at those who are struggling with sin and accuse them of being false converts. We expect other Christians to come up to our level of understanding of Christianity and critique them when they fail. This whole thing has gone way out of hand. It is like a strange fire in the body of Christ. It is a fire of hate and arrogance. It is a form of being 'holier than thou' in our midst. It is ugly and it glorifies the devil.
   Jesus says that the world will know we are Christians by the love we have for one another. I would rather have love for those in the body of Christ than to have all my theology ducks in a row. Our love for God is measured by our love for one another, and, in America today, this doesn't look very good. Maybe that's the reason America is in the condition it is in. When we come together in love and unity, even with our differences, God will meet us. God will meet us when we humble ourselves and stop stabbing one another in the back. Until then, God will be distant, and we will never understand what it is that is wrong.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Calling Out False Teachers

   There seems to be an unusually large amount of posts, comments, and articles about false teachers today. Almost everywhere I turn, I am learning about a new 'false teacher'.
   Most of the posts I read are on Facebook and they go something like this, 'So and so is a false teacher'. There seems to be a vindictiveness about it as well.
   First of all, do we really enjoy finding out about these 'false teachers'? Does it edify us to talk so much about them? What would be the reason we enjoy this so much? Could it be that we think we can get away with ripping someone else up, but in the name of 'exposing false teachers'? Let's look at our hearts first.
   Throughout the New Testament, Jesus, and the Apostles give a lot of instruction on various things that involve our individual lives as well as the life of the church. Out of all the things that were given out for us to grow in and to serve the church with, are the instructions to expose false teachings. We are to stay faithful to the truth and defend it. That is one main reason we need to be in the word continually. We need daily bread. We need to feed upon the word. God's word builds faith in us and helps us to be discerning. It helps us to discern false teachings as well. But exposing false teachings is only one slice of the pie. There is so much more.
   My second concern is, why aren't we telling our readers, about the greatness of God? What has God done in your life lately? Do you want others to know about Him, and to come to know Him personally? Then you need to be communicating to others who He is. The things we love we will talk about. This is Scriptural. Out of the abundance of our hearts our mouths speak.
  If we speak about the things we love, do we love finding false teachers more than we love talking about God? Sure, we need to deal with false teachers as they come up, and they will come up, but to talk about them almost all the time indicates something is off.
   Years ago, there was a man in our area who had a home church called 'Tree of Life'. Many from our church were leaving to go to this home church. We listened to the teachings from the founder of this ministry, and there was a lot of truth missing. This man believed essentially in Universalism. Our pastor talked with the congregation about this man and his teachings. They were dangerous and our pastor did not want those in our church to go astray. I think of two people who left the church to go there, and there are real problems now with them, sadly. I don't know if there was a connection between the false doctrine of Universalism and the results of their lives, but it is very likely. But we didn't have to continue harping about this man and his teachings. We exposed the false teaching. We exposed the false teacher. Job was done.
   The third concern I have is for the fact that there really are corrupt doctrines that are creeping in the church today, that are serious and need to be addressed. The main corrupt doctrine we have to avoid is called 'Pelagianism' which is a doctrinal belief system that says that man is basically good and is capable of choosing sin or not choosing sin. Salvation is dependent upon Jesus death and our obedience to God. Sadly, some of my Christian friends have indications that they believe this way, possibly without even realizing where this doctrine came from. For example, my Christian evangelism friends hold up signs that say 'Repent! Stop sinning!'. While this might look like a somewhat plausible explanation of repentance, the fact of the matter is, human beings cannot stop sinning. If they think they have stopped sinning, then they are deceiving themselves. If they go back and do sin, they will feel like a failure before God. Many turn away because they subconsciously think they have to stop sinning in order for God to accept them. That is a Pelagian belief. But this is overflowing into the church and the church is buying into it without even realizing it. For more information on Pelagianism or Repentance being stopping sin, go to CARM.org and it will explain both of those concepts clearly.
   And lastly, what does the world see when they see our posts on false converts and teachers? The Bible says that people will know we are Christians by our love. Love is listed as the first fruit of being a Christian, out of a list of several other fruits. Without love, we are nothing. In other words, if we don't have love, we have missed the boat. We could have 100% of the truth we stand on, but if we are lacking love, we have missed God. God is love. When we show hatred for someone, we are not representing God properly. We could get everything else right, but love is the key to representing God and reaching the lost. Are we showing love when we openly criticize someone with name calling and speculations? What does that say to the world?

How To Treat A Fallen Brother Or Sister in the Lord

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6:1-3 ESV

This is a friendly reminder that, even though we are new creations in Christ, that we will have to contend against sin every day until the day we leave earth. There is no room for casting stones here. We are instructed to restore a fallen brother or sister in the body of Christ, but with gentleness, because we could also fall, if we are not careful.

After Cain killed his brother, God asks Cain where Abel is. Cain responds with this question, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' God informed Cain that sin would be at the door. Cain was going to have to guard against the temptation to sin. Sin will be at our door every day. If not at the door, it will be at a window, or some place where it can enter. We have to keep the doors and windows locked so that temptation doesn't get in.

   It is not wrong to be tempted to sin. But, the temptations are the Enemy's weapon to get a foothold into our lives and ensnare us with sin. Jesus says, 'Whoever commits sin is a slave to sin'. Satan knows that sin can enslave us. He also knows that our hearts are deceitful, and we don't even really know where we are vulnerable to sin.

   Also, we are to pick others up who have fallen into sin. Today, I'm concerned because, instead of picking up those who have fallen into sin, we stab them with our own weapons. We resort to name calling and hatred. We say that the fallen brother or sister is a false convert. While that is possible, it is also possible that the fallen person is a true believer and has become ensnared in a sin. Our job is to pull him or her out and help that person to become free from the snare that he or she is in. Also, it can happen to us, whether we believe it or not.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Salvation By Faith Alone Resulting in Good Works, Or, Salvation By Faith And Good Works Together?

  Ever since I became a new creation in Christ, I have had pounded in me, the fact that we are saved by faith in Christ alone. But in recent years, I have been able to put this whole thing into context because the Bible seems very clear that there are no 'works' involved in our salvation. Some would say that the good works do not atone for our sins, but are still necessary for us to receive salvation. What do you think and what does the Scriptures actually say?
  If we go all the way back into the Old Testament, we see the Creation of God, and God says that all of these things are 'good'. Then we see the fall of man when Eve took the forbidden fruit and Adam did not intervene, but went along with it and ate the forbidden fruit as well. Then we see something interesting, but without a whole lot of detail. We know that Adam walked with God in the Garden of Eden, but the Bible doesn't tell us exactly what God told him or what happened there. But we do know that ever since mankind fell into sin, one thing that continued to occur was the action of producing an animal sacrifice. God produced the first one when Adam and Eve sinned by killing an animal and covering Adam and Eve. Then we see both Cain and Abel producing sacrifices. Cain's was a sacrifice of vegetables, but Abel's was an animal sacrifice. God was not pleased with Cain's sacrifice though, so that is a hint of something very important. God must have required a certain type of sacrifice that had to do with animals. Later in, during the time of Moses, God gave more specific instructions on the animal sacrifices, and what they were supposed to be done for. We are beginning to see the picture of what is called, 'The Atonement'. We needed an atonement because of our sin. Whenever someone sins, there has to be something to cover that sin. There is no peace between humans and God without an atonement. Then, something amazing comes about; the Passover. During the Passover, the Israelites were trying to get out of Egypt, yet God seemed to be stalling by hardening Pharaoh's heart. God used this to bring about plagues in Egypt to punish the Egyptians, but the last plague, before the Israelites actually were able to leave Egypt, was the worst one. God instructed the Israelites to take a lamb and slaughter it. The blood of the lamb was to be placed on the door posts of every home. Every door post that was covered with blood was protected from the Death Angel who was to come out and kill every firstborn male in the homes in Egypt. There was great wailing that night because of the deaths in the households that weren't covered by the blood of the lamb.

   Passover is a serious holiday for the Jewish people, but sadly, many of them missed the point of the event. Today, in the 21st Century, the memory of the Passover, along with its meaning, is lost. In fact, the meaning of any animal sacrifice is lost. That is why we don't make the connection of the reason why Jesus came and died. Jesus is called the 'Lamb of God' because He was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. We don't kill lambs today to cover over our sins, but sadly, this is why we don't really understand the Gospel. But even throughout the Old Testament, people didn't understand the Gospel either. Much like people today think, the Hebrews thought that by producing their sacrifices they were saved. They didn't understand that the sacrifices were to cover their sins. They thought that by doing the sacrifices, they were saved. It became a 'works' salvation mentality, much like it does today.
   We can be doing many good things, but our motives could be totally wrong. Salvation comes from God providing a sacrifice for us. If we 'get it' we will see the ugliness of our sin and want to turn from it in repentance. I think many people think that by going to church on Sunday (or Saturday), giving tithes, sharing the Gospel, and praying, will save a person, or at least earn brownie points with God. Those things cannot atone for our sins. But they are the result of a new heart that has been given by God to a person who is saved. A saved person will produce good works in his or her life, but those good works are not the means to salvation. Faith (trust) in God produces good works. A person who truly knows God will produce good works, but the Ultimate Sacrifice to atone for our sins is Jesus Christ, God's only Son, who died to pay for all our sins.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Why It Is Hard To Talk About The Gospel - One Reason in Particular

  I find it interesting that today, we have such a hard time talking about the Gospel with our family members and friends. The Gospel is supposed to be incorporated into our lives, but, when it comes to talking about it, we don't know how to do it, at least not naturally. Why is that?
  There may be several reasons, and it may be different for different people, but some reasons are common, at least to us in America, in the Twenty-First Century. One reason for this is that we are powerless many times, because we rely on ourselves to do God's work. We need to be Spirit filled believers. If not, we will not have the power to talk about the things of God, let alone being awkward about it. But another reason, I believe, is because today, 2,000+ after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, our understanding of the 'bigger picture' of the Bible story, is faded. Let me explain further.
   Before the Cross, the Israelites were instructed to sacrifice lambs for atonement for sins. This was a big deal in Israel. Plus, the Israelites were looking for a Messiah, someone who would deliver them. God used many illustrations to help the Israelites understand the coming Gospel. If any of them were looking for an answer to their sin problem, they were able to understand why Jesus came and died for the people. It was a whole package deal. But today we don't generally understand this. Americans don't really understand about sin and God's coming judgment for sin, nor do we really understand why Jesus came and died. It is not important to us because we have not been taught to deal with our sins, and that there are consequences for sin.
   It is like being told the end of a mystery novel. If you know the end of the story, you won't have the same kind of appreciation as you would if you had read through the novel from the beginning. If we are never taught about our sins, like the Israelites were, we don't really think of them as serious. But we hear that Jesus died for our sins, and many believe that. But it doesn't seem like a big deal because we don't understand that sin requires a payment.
   So, we tell people that Jesus died for their sins, and it means nothing to them, because they don't understand why someone would have to die for sins, or even that sin is bad. One person told the story of how he told someone that 'Jesus died for you'. The other person said, 'Oh, I'm sorry'.
   So, when we talk about the Gospel with people, it seems like a foreign subject, because it doesn't have anything to do with what we are doing today. Could it be that because we only know the 'end of the story' that we communicate it to people, and they give us a blank stare? The Israelites were able to tie in Jesus' death with the sacrificing of lambs, and put the concept together in their minds. We don't kill lambs today (and don't need to) but it does help us if we understand what the Bible says about the Gospel from the beginning to the end. If the Bible story is precious to us, we will talk about it. Talking about the Gospel will become more natural.
   I think learning formulas using sentences and questions can be helpful sometimes in sharing the Gospel, but, I think sometimes these formulas become a substitute for the life of God that He wants us to share with others. I think because we are familiar with the 'end of the story' (the good news) that we fail to explain 'the bad news' to people, and they only get part of the picture. We are so concerned with people going to hell that we try to truncate the Gospel message hoping they will understand the 'formula' we give them, rather than taking the time to show them the life of God, and the love of God, along with explaining the 'Big picture' of the Gospel. We need to share the life of God, and that can only come when we spend time with Him. Then the Gospel won't be so distant to us. Something to think about.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Preach The Gospel-Use Words If Necessary

Have you ever heard this phrase, 'Preach the Gospel. Use words if necessary'? They are attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, but no one really knows where it came from. It would be like saying, "Feed the poor. Use food if necessary." Or, "Tell me your phone number; if necessary use digits" (Greer).

   Why is this distressful though, for people? I think there are a couple of reasons for this. Some people think of preaching the Gospel as being a Bible thumping experience. Sadly, there have been many open air preachers who do this. Personally, I think a lot of these guys are what I call, 'Pelagians'. Pelagians are people who believe that human beings are not born with a sinful nature, but every person choses to sin or not to sin. Some of these guys come down hard on people. I guess they think that they are choosing not to sin, and can't understand why anyone would sin. They fail to see that sin is the fabric of our lives. Sin is not just killing someone, but being angry in a wrong way, or when we don't get what we want. That is murder of the heart. These people aren't looking at the heart, but the actions of some people, and then judging them. Can you see why this would be a problem?
   Others will take a verse, such as the one which states that a woman who has an unbelieving husband can win him over by her actions, and also she would not have to use words. I think I understand this verse as I thought about it recently. If a woman has an unbelieving husband, she should NOT preach to him on a continual basis. Chances are really good that she has preached to him (that would be a natural response to a salvation experience), and Paul is clear that women should not preach to men. But even more so, when you want to win your husband over to the Lord, nothing could be more distracting than her preaching to him, especially on a regular basis. Any time a woman tells a man what to do, it comes off in a bad way. That doesn't mean it is wrong for her to answer his questions or make references to the Lord or the Gospel. It is recommended that she doesn't nag him though, because that would not be a good example of Christ.
   One more reason I think people are troubled by this quote is that some really do believe that a person can come to Christ if they live or observe a person who is a Christian living out a good, godly, holy life.  Some will use this as an excuse for not using words. There are those who will serve someone, for example, then say that they preached the Gospel or did evangelism, when in reality, they were only serving someone. Certainly a true believer in Jesus Christ should bear good fruit in his or her life. All Christians should be looking for places to serve and growing in love and humility. But manifesting acts of love do not replace using words to explain the Gospel, nor does it give the credit to God unless the person doing the Godly acts explains why they are doing what they are doing, or who they are serving.
   Some people don't want to share the Gospel. They are afraid to talk to people about Jesus. We all need the Holy Spirit to empower us and give us the boldness to share the Gospel with people. Can our love overcome our fear of speaking the Gospel? God can change our hearts.
  I think sometimes, we think of sharing the Gospel as accomplishing some kind of great feat. We make a big deal out of people who do evangelism, as if the evangelist has won some kind of Olympic. Really, it is impossible (I believe) to preach the Gospel (from a redeemed heart) unless a person is truly redeemed and filled with the Holy Spirit. It's not the evangelist who earned the award, but it is God. God is the One who gives the power to do evangelism. Our boldness comes from Him, not ourselves.
   The Bible is clear that people will get saved by hearing God's word. In Bible days, people understood the Gospel because they had been taught about sin. They practiced what the Law taught when it came to offering sacrifices because of their sin. They sacrificed lambs and the blood of the Lambs covered their sins (did not take them away). When Jesus came and lived a perfect life, and died for our sins, it made sense to the people that He was the Lamb of God, the ultimate Sacrifice for our sins. But today, in America and throughout the world, the practice of sacrificing lambs is foreign to us. Even the 10 Commandments are becoming more distant. When we explain the Gospel to people, we have more explaining to do than those in the Bible times. When Jesus said that He was "I am", the people knew what He was saying and implying. If we read Jesus' words where He said that He was 'I am', we don't understand what that means, unless we have a good understanding of the Old Testament. That is the precise reason we have to explain the Gospel to people today, using words. We have to lay the foundation for the hearer to understand the whole picture. It is not enough for us to say, 'Jesus died for your sins' and expect people to understand what the Gospel is. There are good web sites that explain the Gospel message that you can go to. Living Waters is one of the best. It has a lot of helpful information on communicating the Gospel to the lost. Like one lady we knew, who recently passed away, said, 'No one ever asked me the questions about salvation. Everyone assumed I already knew." It was a good thing our pastors asked her the questions, for she came to Christ. She died recently and I have to wonder what would have happened if no one had asked her those hard questions.
     Something more to think about...