Romans 8:6-10 & 1 Corinthians 2:14: A Tale of Two Minds

Romans 8:6-10 (ESV)

6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

In these few verses addressed to believers in Rome and Corinth, the Apostle Paul describes and contrasts two types of human thinking, two mindsets or worldviews, if you will.

In our Romans passage, Paul speaks of ‘the mind set on the flesh’ and ‘the mind set on the Spirit’. He contrasts the old ‘natural’ mental state of the unregenerate (unbelievers) with the ‘new ’natural’ state of born-again believers in Christ. I use the term ‘new’ natural in reference to believers because while we are still capable of carnal/fleshly thoughts, our new nature in Christ changes our thought lives. You might say that believers are capable of being ‘double’ minded, while unbelievers, without the Spirit of God, are very ‘single’ minded and completely incapable of understanding spiritual truths (1 Cor 2:14). In fact, a carnal mind (the only one available to the unregenerate) cannot please God (Rom 8:8)!

Some Logical Implications:

1. It takes a supernatural act of God to raise a spiritually dead (carnally minded) person to spiritual life capable of spiritual understanding.

2. Spiritual understanding is necessary to comprehending the gospel message that Christ died for the sins of his people.

3. Free will decisions of unregenerate people don’t please God because unregenerate people cannot please him.

4. Regeneration necessarily precedes genuine saving faith, which pleases God.

So how is anyone saved?

Romans 8:29-30 (ESV)

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Those whom are foreknown by God WILL be brought to glorification by the same God.

Does this mean that there are those who are not foreknown in the same way who will die in their sins? That is an inescapable conclusion, dear friend. And while we don’t know who they are, we are called to share Jesus with all whom we meet. Not only did God decree and bring to pass the salvation of his remnant people, he also decreed the means by which he would save his elect – the preaching of the gospel, That is our great privilege.

God gives life to cold dead sinners, and like Lydia in Acts 16, opens their hearts to heed the message of the gospel that we bring!

10 Lessons From the Death of John Chau

by Jordan Standridge, The Cripplegate

Would you be willing to die for the Gospel?

That’s a question every Christian needs to ask themselves. And really, it should be a part of our discussions in Sunday school with our kids and everyone we evangelize. We aren’t just calling people to new life, we are calling people to die to self and be willing to die for the sake of others.

I think that’s an appropriate take away from the news of John Chau’s death. I’ve been thinking about John Chau almost non-stop since I heard about his death.

If you haven’t heard yet, a young man who had been praying about a specific unreached tribe on the North Sentinel Island in India, was killed as he went ashore with the hopes of bringing the Gospel to them.

The response has been all over the map. Some articles seemed to suggest that he was some guy on vacation who happened to hear about this unreached tribe so close to him, and decided to take a boat ride on shore despite being warned about the danger. Some articles who knew he had been working for quite some time to reach these specific people questioned his love for them because he was immorally exposing them to disease that would certainly kill them upon contact.

It has also sparked strong discussion about missionary work. Let’s just say this story has caused me to reflect. And I have come up with a few lessons we can all learn from this event, while being mindful of the fact that we don’t have all the details yet.

1.  We should be willing to die for the Gospel

John Chau was willing to die for the Gospel. You can criticize his strategy or his support system if you’d like, but he understood a very simple truth and that is “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Souls are at stake, and sometimes, in order to reach them, some will die. Every single disciple willingly suffered harm and was willing to die for the Gospel. And we should too.

2.  How will they hear unless we go?

By all accounts, India is angry with John Chau. In fact, they are so angry that they have arrested the seven people who helped him get to the tribe. By all accounts, this tribe has been in existence for a really long time without ever having contact with the outside world. India seems to be not only comfortable with this, but outlawing any contact with the tribe.

As comfortable as they were with this, John wasn’t, and he decided that it was worth his life to go and try to talk to them. We know that whether they hear or not, it doesn’t change their destination. But we need to realize that this is just a stark reminder that God reaches people through ordinary people like me and you who are willing to go and tell people who haven’t heard.

3.  We need the church

All the information isn’t out yet, but I sure hope John Chau’s family attends a church that will help shepherd them through this time. I’m sure this was true about him, but I would add that this is a reminder about the importance of each missionary having a strong sending church. Many missionaries give up great paying careers, the comforts of family and friends, and living in first world countries for the sake of reaching the lost.  They are in absolute need of sending churches and elders to help shepherd them through decisions. They are in desperate need of fellow believers’ prayers. Whether you are a campus minister, a foreign missionary, or a street evangelist, you’re a fool if you don’t align yourself with a local church and submit to their leadership. You literally cannot live without it.

4.  We need teams

Again we don’t know if John had a team, but it is safe to say that teams are essential at least for the average Joe. There are missionary accounts where folks went alone and succeeded, but that is rare and takes a special type of person and family to accomplish. We need others in our lives in order to encourage us, confront us, and keep us accountable. We need people with different skill sets to work with us and to help us in areas that we may struggle in. I don’t know what John’s long-term strategy was, but this is a stark reminder that we need someone with us who is willing to die for the Gospel and die for each other.

5.  We don’t need to listen to the world

The world can’t understand. Even if you explain it to them slowly and as clearly as you can, all they hear is utter foolishness. The Gospel itself is foolish to the ears of the perishing as the Bible tells us (1 Cor. 1:18). No church or ministry should get any advice from the world, and yet it seems to be a trend these days. Cultural wars abound, and it seems to me that many churches and individuals are very interested in what the world thinks.  The worlds reaction to this story is a helpful reminder that the world simply can’t understand, and to take our cues from them is the thing that is actually foolish.

6.  People willing to die are hard to come by

I’m just shocked by the outrage by not only unbelievers, but some believers as well. I’m sure I have disagreements with Chau on his theology, but I do appreciate his seeming love for the Gospel and the lost. Simply put, there aren’t that many Christians willing to risk everything for Christ. Sure, I do believe that most Christians with a gun to their head would pledge allegiance to Jesus, but sadly, it takes a lot to move us out of our comfort zone. You can criticize John Chau all you want, but I pray that we are willing to get out of our comfort zone for the sake of the lost.

7.  We need to support missionaries

Missionaries need our support. Of course, if everyone goes then no one can be supported to go. Some of us who would like to go have to stay back. But our money can go a long way. The best way you can use your money is to give it to a church that is serious about Gospel work. They demonstrate it by trying to reach their own neighbors and by sending missionaries to other countries. The next thing you can do is find a couple of missionaries who you’re excited about and faithfully give to them. That’s an investment that keeps giving dividends for eternity.

8.  We need to pray for missionaries

Missionaries are at constant risk. The devil and his angels hate them especially, and want them to fail. He targets their families and marriages, their health and their bodies, their finances and their emotions. They are in constant need of prayer. They are making decisions that really could affect entire nations. It is important that everyone reading this has a missionary that they are praying for on a consistent basis.

9.  We need loads of training

Not going to hard mission fields is not an option. We must go, but we must strategize. We need to be ready. We need teams and we need training. It isn’t an option to just pack up and leave. We must train. Doctors train years before they ever do their first surgery. Lawyers train for years before they ever stand before a jury. In an even more serious way, missionaries must train for years to prepare for the mission field. Seminary is not an option for those who seek to bring the Gospel to other countries. At the very least, one of the members of the team must be seminary trained in order to be ready to start a church. It’s not enough to have a few verses and songs memorized–that’s enough to have a gospel conversation, but not enough to start a church.

10.  We need to be willing to die for the Gospel

Have I said this yet? All jokes aside, this is a non-negotiable of the Christian life. I hope I’m not shocking you. John 15:20-21 is clear:

“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.”

Even though we may disagree with his approach or theology, John Chau reminds us of an important truth. A slave is not greater than his master

Starting a Conversation

In a previous post titled “What is Evangelism?”, the following definition of what it means ‘to evangelize’ was presented:

“To evangelize is to present Christ Jesus to sinful people in order that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they may come to put their trust in God through Him.”

The article proposed that this definition defined four important aspects of personal evangelism:

1. It defines the mission of the evangelist – “to present Christ”.

2. It defines the primary audience for the gospel message – “sinful people”.

3. It defines the problem the gospel message addresses – “our sin”.

4. It defines the power behind both the gospel message and the response to that message – the Holy Spirit, thus establishing the sovereignty of God in the salvation of men.

Armed with the above definition, and with a burden for a lost loved one, friend, or even a perfect stranger, you are ready to go. How does it start?

First of all, pray – before, during, and after. Pray specifically that God will open hearts to receive the message. And secondly, no matter how you get the conversation off the ground, do so with gentleness and respect. Remember that it is God who saves and that your mission is simply to share Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Don’t ‘force’ a conversation. You could actually enter an ongoing conversation, or you might have an opportunity to initiate the discussion. What follows is an example of the conversation process.

1. Just start talking about a current news item in which somebody did something we all would consider a bad thing to do. Just pick something that’s a hot topic. Once you start talking about it and are agreed that so-and-so did a bad thing, ask…..

2. Why did so-and-so do that? That WILL get an answer. The answer will guide you to the next question. Whatever the answer is it will be what your conversation partner thinks motivated so-and-so to do a bad thing. Whatever the specific answer is, it will automatically lead to the next question. Example might be: “I think he/she must be a bad person.” then ask:

3. WHY/HOW is it that so-and-so is bad? You can get a variety of reasons to lead you to the NEXT question.

The object of the questions is to be able to get to a point of agreement that the real problem is something ‘inside’ so-and-so. Outside influences don’t cause bad behavior. There’s something inside a person that is at issue. In James we are told that we sin when we are drawn away by our own lust/passions. Keep that in the back of your mind.

Once you agree about an internal problem ask:

4. What do you think the internal problem is?,. You can even add ….’and how did you think it got there?’ Regardless of the answer you can inject God into the discussion with something that doesn’t accuse, but rather points out that there’s a book called the Bible that talks about this guy called Adam. You are sharing a story from a ‘source’ document, not preaching. And it keeps going.

Once you agree it very well could be this thing called sin (the bad news of the gospel) you ask another question:

5. What do you think can be done to solve the problem of sin? You know the answer and prayerfully anticipate the opportunity to provide another answer from the same ‘source’ book.

And the conversation continues step by step until you have shared God’s answer from the ‘source’ book. At some point it might be time to consider a response to the message. Then you can say something like “Based on what you have heard so far, do you think you are ready to respond (the gospel must be responded to), or ARE you still on the way?” You very could hear that someone is ready to respond, or you could hear a person say, “I’m still on the way, I guess………”, which keeps the door to conversation open.

Do you see what’s going on in the ‘conversation’? You don’t preach, you PRESENT Christ. You don’t push for anything, you just talk about God’s plan of salvation from a ‘source’ book – the Bible. Asking questions shows you care what someone thinks. And really care. If you don’t weep for that lost soul, pray to God for ‘a weep’. He will give it to you.

My friends, be blessed as you share your Savior!

The Twenty-First Century Church: Light Without Salt

Contributed to Pulpit and Pen P. E. Harris

Through many years of pastoral ministry, I have encountered many so-called evangelical Christians who do not believe in speaking about their faith. Many of them have bought into the philosophy that Christians should only witness Jesus Christ to people by their lifestyle. The mantra of these people goes like this, “You should be a witness for Jesus Christ and maybe even have to speak about it.” Many in the church today would agree with this statement. They believe that somehow through osmosis people get saved when they see Christians just being themselves. I have even heard testimonies by Christians who claimed to have won people to Christ without a spoken word. And yet, in 30 years I have never run into anyone who said that was how they got saved. Lifestyle evangelism is just an excuse to be silent about Christ. This philosophy is contrary to the express teachings of Jesus Christ who said, “… go into all nations and preach the Gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) And, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before my Father in Heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in Heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)

The reason people like lifestyle evangelism is because it makes them feel safe. They never have to confront people about sin. They never have to stand up for righteousness. In certain crowds, they can always be spiritually ambiguous so as not to offend. They never have to face rejection and ridicule. They just live their “Christian” lives and keep their opinions to themselves. A close cousin of lifestyle evangelism is the Joel Osteen positive only Christianity. People know there is little risk of offense if you only speak positive and encouraging things. This safety issue is one of the reasons for the popularity of Mr. Osteen. In Osteen’s church, you can be a “Christian” without counting the cost of discipleship. And you never have to worry about having a contrary opinion with other people. You never have to worry that your message will offend anyone. You never have to bring up the subjects of sin and rebellion. Because all you do is encourage people to find health, wealth and prosperity in the promises of Jesus. No muss, no fuss, no confrontation, no persecution by the world. Just believe the myth that as long as you focus on improving yourself and finding your own purpose, the glow of your positive light will attract other people.

However, there is a major flaw with this philosophy. This is a Christianity who’s true light is hidden under a basket. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just a positive message of God’s gifts and promises. The Gospel is first a negative message convicting people of sin. This conviction leads to repentance and contrition before people can ever receive the positive promises of God. The ministry of the Gospel is not just positive light, it is first and foremost confrontational salt. As Jesus Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp-stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:11-16) Notice how the reference to salt is connected to people who are persecuted for righteousness sake. Salt is a metaphor about people speaking up for the truth and righteousness of God. Notice also that salt comes before the light in the passage.

Before refrigeration, salt was indispensable to fight the bacteria that would cause food poisoning. If you went to the meat market the only choice you had was meat left outdoors, usually covered with flies. Eating meat is a very positive and healthy thing. But only a fool would try to eat unrefrigerated meat without first salting it before it was cooked. The use of salt rubbed into the meat kills off the corrupting influence of insect larvae, viruses, and bacteria. Even today it is recommended to give turkey a salt rub before cooking it to prevent salmonella. Salt also has the power to clean wounds and to prevent infection. The ancients commonly used salt as a medicinal cure. But needless to say, salt in a wound is a mighty powerful irritant. It stings, but it heals. Being salt in a spiritual sense means you are an irritant to people trapped in sin and worldliness. Just as salt stings when it confronts an infected wound, so does true preaching of repentance sting prior to salvation. The authentic Gospel stings the heart of sinful, worldly and lost people. And yet, without the medicine of Gospel-salt people cannot be healed, forgiven or set free by the blood of Christ. Being salt with flavor means you actually have to speak negative truth to lost souls in order to bring them to the positive aspects of deliverance and salvation. Being salt means you have to confront the corroding bacteria of false doctrine in the world and in the church. Being salt means you have become a true disciple of Jesus Christ. It means you must be willing to sacrifice yourself and suffer possible persecution for the sake of the genuine salvation of souls.

Before Lucifer fell and became Satan his name meant light-bearer. Presently the church is crammed full of useless positive light-bearers. This is Lucifer’s plan to turn Christians into half-truth positive only speakers so the true and complete Gospel never gets out. He wants us to bring light without salt, and he has been wildly successful. This work of Satan is all about deceiving souls because the half-truths of the positive Gospel are in reality the complete lies of the Evil One. Because of the popularity of the false positive Gospel throughout the world, the real church has a severe shortage of salt-bearers. Men and women who are willing to risk, confront and speak the truth necessary so people can be authentically saved. What the church and world need more than ever is full disciples of Jesus Christ who boldly proclaim both the salt and the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ’s substitutionary atonement and God’s grace to save.

Source

[Contributed by P. E. Harris]

P.E. Harris has been a Christan pastor, teacher, and lecturer for 30 years. He and his wife Aloma live in Southern California. The Harris’ have 5 children and 8 grandchildren. Mr. Harris’ two books will be available in 2018. Christian Fiction: Royal Rodger and the Great King: And Christian Non-Fiction: Anchors of Salvation

Why Some People Reject Jesus

By Scott Redd, Tabletalk Magazine

As an anthology, the four Gospels reveal two complementary responses to the person of Jesus Christ. Some people are inexplicably drawn to Jesus while others are just as inexplicably repelled by Him.

Philip is an example of the former. He leaves behind his livelihood to follow this itinerant preacher who beckons him to “follow me” (John 1:43). No questions. He just follows.

The crowds and disciples described in John 6:60–66 represent the latter.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:60–66)

Having left their homes to follow Jesus and His teaching, the crowds already know that He preaches like no other rabbi and that He can handle adversity with insight and authority. They have seen Him perform miracles that defy explanation and point to deeper truths about His identity and purpose.

In spite of all of this, when they hear Jesus preach that God the Father and the Holy Spirit are integral to their coming to faith in Him, they leave in droves.

This passage deals with the inner spiritual dynamics of conversion. It is about the spiritual reality of coming to faith, the divine hand behind the act of believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Three Aspects of Conversion

From this passage, we learn about three significant aspects of conversion to Jesus Christ.

First, belief is more than swearing membership to a group. Saving faith is more than saying the right words, more than following Jesus in His teaching ministry and counting yourself as one of His disciples. The disciples who abandon Jesus in John 6 had previously given the impression that they were His followers—they had left their homes and jobs to travel with someone the religious authorities claimed was a fool, or worse, a madman. Even though they had given up so much, they were not ready for the heart of the gospel. Perhaps they accepted the teaching of Jesus the rabbi, but they did not accept the teaching of Jesus the divine Son.

Second, hypocrisy is common in gospel community, even when Jesus is the preacher. The church will always be filled with broken people, some of whom are drawn by the Spirit to repentance and faith, and others who are drawn by their sin to hardness and nominalism. Pastors and church leaders must remember that they are always preaching and teaching to a mixed audience. The best way to serve that audience is to lovingly, confidently, and prayerfully teach the whole counsel of God from the Scriptures.

Third, saving faith is the result of the Holy Spirit’s giving life more than it is the result of collecting empirical evidence. Jesus says: “Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (John 6:62–63). To be sure, Christians should present the gospel in a way that is contextually sensitive, and yes, evangelists should seek to remove any offense that is not intrinsic to the gospel message. But Jesus is saying that He could take to flight before their eyes and His audience would still not believe if the Spirit did not regenerate their hearts and minds. Conversion is the work of the Spirit in attendance with gospel proclamation. Reason, experience, and imagination all play a role in salvation, but if the Spirit does not give life, saving faith will not result.

Comfort and Challenge

We should find comfort in the necessary role of the Spirit in our evangelistic efforts. Many will patiently listen to our gospel message only to politely walk away without a moment’s hesitation. We should always check our hearts and methods when this happens, but we should also remember that people walked away from Jesus as well.

We should be challenged when we realize that a person’s response to the gospel is ultimately out of our hands. Every Christian has someone in their lives who they believe could never come to saving faith. Jesus’ teaching in John 6 is proof that no one can escape the life-giving work of the Spirit if it is willed by the Father. Who are we to doubt the power of regeneration in the lives of those around us?

The Trinity and Evangelism

Last, don’t miss the Trinitarian tone of John 6 and how it helps us keep a balanced view of evangelism and salvation. No one receives the Son unless the Spirit gives life, as it is granted by the Father.

Keeping this Trinitarian foundation in view protects us from two common errors, one that sees conversion as arbitrary and the other that sees it merely as a matter of persuasion. Because the Father directly grants salvation according to His good pleasure, it is the least arbitrary of all human experiences. Because salvation relies on the regeneration of the Spirit, we know that conversion rests on something other than a well-framed sales pitch.

I’ll conclude with a third error that this Trinitarian teaching helps us avoid. Because of the revelation of the Son, we should resist the error that leads us to complacency in evangelism. In His humiliation and exaltation, the Son provided the groundwork for our redemption. As a result, for those who are in Him, there is every reason to proclaim His gospel with confidence in the light of our Trinitarian faith.

______________

Dr. Scott Redd is president and associate professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Presuppositional Apologetics and Personal Evangelism

Sounds rather ominous, does it not? Really deep stuff! Well, not necessarily. First, let’s define our terms.

“Presuppositionalism is a school of Christian apologetics that believes the Christian faith is the only basis for rational thought. It presupposes that the Bible is divine revelation and attempts to expose flaws in other worldviews. It claims that apart from presuppositions, one could not make sense of any human experience, and there can be no set of neutral assumptions from which to reason with a non-Christian”.[i]

 To evangelize is to present Christ Jesus to sinful people in order that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they may come to put their trust in God through Him.”[ii]

We all have presuppositions, certain beliefs or assumptions with which we enter discussions. They frame our thoughts about a matter as well as our argument. In matters of personal evangelism, it means that we believe what the Bible tells us about ourselves as human beings, as well as what it has to has to say about lost sinners. We let those truths guide us in our sharing of the good news.

So, what does the Bible tell us about ourselves as human beings? For me, the two most significant facts are found in Romans, Chapter 1.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of (fallen) 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.” (Rom 1:18-19) Emphasis mine.

First, since fallen men are full of ungodliness and unrighteousness, they are subjects of God’s wrath. Secondly, fallen men know that God exists, yet the suppress the truth in their unrighteousness. In other words, God doesn’t believe in atheists.

With that truth in mind, what else the Bible have to tell us about those with who we desire to share the gospel? We’ll share just a few.

1. They don’t seek God.

 “As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” (Rom 3:10-11)

2. They hate God and can do nothing to please him.

For the mind that is set on the flesh (the only mind the sinner has) is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom 8:7-8) Emphasis mine.

3.  They cannot, in and of themselves, even understand the gospel!

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor 2:14)

“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:4)

 

So how does this affect our evangelistic efforts? There are several ways:

1. If all of us, by nature, already know that God exists, we do not have to ‘prove’ the existence of God. In fact, some would suggest that if we engage in proving the existence of God to an unbeliever, we are presenting a ‘case for God’ and making the unbeliever the ‘judge’.

2. If it’s true that the unbeliever is living in rebellion against the God he/she knows exist, that person by nature also hates God’s gospel. We are actually presenting the gospel to someone who doesn’t want to hear it.

3. If it’s also true that the unbeliever, in his/her natural state, cannot even understand the message of the gospel why do we present it at all?  I tell you why I do.

You see, along with believing what the Bible says about us as fallen creatures (our presuppositions), I also believe that God saves all those whom he has chosen to save in exactly the same manner (another presupposition). Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into a long dissertation about the doctrine of salvation. But I do believe that there are two ‘steps’, if you will, in God’s saving of sinners.

1. God opens hearts to hear the gospel.

2. God sends a messenger to present the gospel to that divinely opened heart.

Do you remember Lydia in Acts, Chapter 16? Paul and company went down to a river outside of Philippi looking for a place of prayer and there was a small group of women already gathered there. Paul spoke to them and we are told:

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” (Acts 16:14) (Emphasis mine.)

In short, God opened Lydia’s heart to hear the gospel, sent Paul as his messenger to present that gospel and Lydia was baptized (along with her household) and invited Paul & company to stay at her house!

 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” (Acts 16:15)

We don’t need to be told specifically that ‘Lydia was saved that day’; the text speaks for itself. God had a purpose ion opening her heart and God’s purposes cannot fail.

So, what does that mean for personal evangelism? It means that we have the great privilege to be God’s ‘gospel’ messengers. Our job is to ‘get the gospel right’ (Christ died for our sins) and share it with others. Our prayer for the lost is simple. “God, open their hearts to hear.”

We don’t need to try and pry open hard hearts with clever presentations. We don’t even need to ask people to open their own hearts. They can’t. That’s God’s business. Unless God opens a heart to hear the truth of the message, our words are just words. But when God opens a sinner’s heart and the gospel is heard, salvation happens.

In summary, presuppositional apologetics –  believing what God says about fallen men and believing what we are told about how God saves sinners actually simplifies our evangelism. Our ‘work’ is knowing and being faithful to the gospel message (See 1 Cor 15:1-5) and being available to share that message as God leads us. No tricks, no gimmicks. We’re not ‘salesmen’. We’re simply messengers. It is God who saves sinners!


[i] John Frame, 2006

[ii] Alistair Begg, Crossing the Barriers

The Parable of the Sower and Bad Evangelism

By John MacArthur

One of the dominant myths in evangelicalism is that the growth of Christianity hinges on its popularity. The idea that more people will repent if only the preacher were cooler or funnier invariably causes the church to suffer through a ridiculous parade of entrepreneurial types who act as though their personal charm can draw people to Christ. But you cannot manufacture converts by changing the message or stylizing the messenger.

This error leads to the harmful notion that a pastor’s conduct and speech should be shaped by the culture in which he ministers. Many preachers have such strong cravings for cultural acceptance they are actually willing to alter God’s message of salvation in order to achieve it. Subjects like sin, guilt, and repentance are regularly jettisoned so as not to offend or alienate non-Christians.

Such compromises do nothing to increase the church’s witness within the culture. In fact, they have the opposite effect. By creating celebrity preachers with synthetic gospels they only succeed in filling churches with unrepentant sinners. Instead of making the world more like the church, such efforts only succeed in making the church more like the world. This is precisely what Christ’s teaching in Luke 8:5–8 was designed to avoid.

The Nagging Question in Evangelism

The disciples, having a genuine burden that others would believe, must have been astounded that the masses were not repenting. The problem wasn’t Jesus’ ability to attract an audience—the crowds were huge, often numbering in the tens of thousands. But very few were repenting and embracing the Savior. The disciples’ own expectations of a global kingdom without end (Isaiah 9 and 45) were faltering. It must have been easy to lay the blame at the indicting, hard, demanding message that Christ preached (cf. John 6:60-61).

The Lord responded to the rising tide of doubt by telling a series of parables about evangelism. A year before He would give the Great Commission, Jesus told His first parable about a farmer sowing seed:

The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great. (Luke 8:5–8)

This agricultural illustration is a paradigmatic explanation of what evangelism should look like. It is designed to answer the fundamental evangelistic question: Why do some people repent and believe the gospel while others reject it?

The Invariable Sower

Luke 8:5–8 is commonly known as the Parable of the Sower. But that popular title is indicative of the widespread confusion we see today regarding its interpretation and application. The parable isn’t about the sower.

What is surprising about the farmer in the story is how little control he actually has in the growing of crops. There are no adjectives used to describe his style or skill.

In a subsequent parable (Mark 4:26–29) Jesus states that he who sows the seed is actually ignorant of how the seed transforms itself into a mature plant. After sowing the seed, the farmer “goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know” (Mark 4:27).

This ignorance is not unique to the sower in Christ’s parables but rather is true of everyone who sows. The growth of the seed is a mystery that even the most advanced farmer cannot explain. And that reality is the key to understanding the Lord’s first parable.

Jesus explained that the seed is the gospel or “word of the kingdom”, the farmer is the evangelist, and the soil represents the heart of the hearer (Matthew 13:19). The evangelist scatters the seed—that is, explains the gospel to people—and some of those people believe and receive life. How this happens is a divine mystery to the evangelist. One thing is clear, however: though he is the human means, it does not ultimately depend on him. The power of the gospel is in the working of the Spirit, not in the style of the sower (Romans 1:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Peter 1:23). It is the Spirit of God who raises souls from death to life, not the methods or techniques of the messenger.

The apostle Paul understood this principle. When he brought the gospel to Corinth, he planted the church and left it in the care of Apollos. Later he described the experience this way: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6). God was the one who actually drew sinners to Himself, changed their hearts, and caused them to be sanctified. Paul and Apollos were both faithful, but they most certainly were not the explanation for the supernatural life and growth. This truth caused Paul to say, “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

This runs counter to the notion that the results of evangelism can be influenced by the cultural assimilation of the pastor or the style of music used at his crusades. The preacher who thinks designer jeans will make his message more palatable is akin to a farmer investing in a designer seed bag so that the soil will be more receptive to his seeds.

Jesus intentionally highlights the farmer’s lack of influence over the growth of the seed. The entire parable makes the statement that as far as evangelism goes, it simply does not matter what the evangelist wears or how he does his hair. Such externals are not what makes the seed grow. Anyone who argues that a preacher who imitates a particular segment of culture is better able to reach that culture, has completely failed to understand Jesus’ point in the parable.

All the farmer can do is sow, and all the evangelist can do is proclaim. As a preacher, if I thought someone’s salvation was contingent upon my persuasiveness or relevance, I could never sleep. But instead I know that “the Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19). It is not coincidental that the New Testament never calls evangelists to bear the responsibility for another person’s salvation. Rather, having proclaimed the message faithfully, we are called to rest in the sovereignty of God—much like the farmer in Mark 4:27 who sleeps through the night after a day of scattering seed.

Christ’s description of the farmer provides the biblical model for evangelism. The evangelist must plant the gospel seed, without which no one can be saved (Romans 10:14–17). Then he must trust God with the results, since only the Spirit can give life (John 3:5–8).

The Invariable Seed

Not only is the farmer’s style irrelevant to the success of his crops but Jesus also does not suggest that the sower should alter his seed to facilitate growth. And this absence of discussion about the seed directly corresponds to evangelism. Jesus assumes that Christians will evangelize using the true seed—the gospel.

Most preachers outwardly profess that the gospel is an unalterable non-negotiable, but that doesn’t stop them from subtly softening its sharp edges. Modern gospel presentations frequently portray God as indifferent to sin and not its judge; the sinner as the victim, not the offender; the cross of Christ as the remedy to frustrations and unfulfilled dreams, not the propitiation for our sins; and a divine endgame that revolves around our temporal happiness, not our eternal state.

One of the primary refrains about evangelism today is that the church needs to update the methods without altering the message. But if we’re not faithfully preaching the truth about man’s sinfulness, God’s grace and mercy, the sinner’s need for repentance and faith, and the completed work of Christ, we’re not protecting and preserving the gospel message.

Believers are sternly warned in Scripture against tampering with the message (Galatians 1:6–9; 2 John 9–11). If a frustrated evangelist looks at how difficult his task is, or how closed his culture seems to be to the gospel, the problem is not with the faithful messenger or the true gospel. Rather, it lies in the nature of the soil into which the true seed falls.

Thus the sower and the seed are constants in Christ’s parable. The only variable is the soil—the receptivity of the hearer. And in the days ahead, we’ll take a closer look at the characteristics of each soil type we’ll find on our mission field.