Food for Thought Concerning Personal Evangelism

Last week, I was in the middle of my early morning indoor cycling routine and skimming through Facebook. I came across a FB post that had as a very sincere comment, the following:

“We are to invite people to the Banquet in Heaven. 

Evangelism is 3 parts:

1. Determine if they are lost or saved. 

Do you know or hope you will go to Heaven? 

2. Plan of Salvation. 

3. INVITE THEM to Heaven!

Years ago I witnessed to a man but did not invite. I attended his funeral. I wished I had invited him.

Last year I invited a man. 2 weeks later his daughter called and said he had died. 

I have peace. I hope he is in Heaven, if he is not it is because he chose to reject JESUS. 

Popular Preachers who speak against sinner’s prayer and altar calls are pharisees causing cowardice. I witnessed to an Atheist. Told him TODAY you will accept or reject JESUS, or reject HIM, told him the consequences of each choice. He said:

“I really don’t want to reject JESUS.”

I left the following reply, hoping to start a discussion with “Bob” (not his real name):

1. It’s not our job to ‘determine’ whether a person is saved or not.

2. I believe that it’s the Holy Spirit who issues the invitation. We might speak words of invitation, but the Holy Spirit opens hearts dead in sin to answer the invitation and causes them to respond.

2. I believe we are to invite them to Christ for the forgiveness of sin, which IS an invitation to heaven!

First of all, know that I’m not bashing “Bob”. There was a time I shared a lot of “Bob’s” approach to evangelism. The desired discussion has yet to take place. I’m still praying. I want to ask “Bob” WHY he placed so much emphasis on the need to issue “invitations”, although I think I know. He felt badly when he had witnessed to but NOT issued an invitation (to Heaven), but at peace when he witnessed AND gave an invitation. You see, if a personal invitation is NOT given and the ‘witnessee’ dies and ends up in hell, at least some of the blood is on the hands of the ‘evangelist’. If an invitation is given and the receiver of the invitation rejects Jesus and dies, the ‘evangelist’ bears no guilt. He can breathe easy. He did his job.

I believe such an approach to be faulty, and for the reasons I stated in my reply to “Bob”.

1. It’s not our job to ‘determine’ whether a person is saved or not. That’s God’s business. The best we can do is find out what a person thinks his/her eternal destiny might be and go from there. We could be speaking to a genuine believer who lacks assurance of salvation for one reason or another. Besides that, there are a LOT of folks who are SURE they are heaven bound, but for the wrong reasons. Still, at the end of the day, only God know who is/isn’t saved. We are to proclaim the gospel to everyone – saved folks need to hear it again also.

2. I believe that it’s the Holy Spirit who issues the invitation. We might speak words of invitation, but the Holy Spirit opens hearts dead in sin to answer the invitation and causes them to respond. (See Lydia in Acts 16). When God has opened a heart to hear, that heart WILL eventually hear and a sinner will be saved.

2. I believe we are to invite them to Christ for the forgiveness of sin, which IS an invitation to heaven! I have yet to find an “invitation” to Jesus (or “Heaven”, for that matter. What I find is a command to “repent and believer the gospel”, given by Jesus himself.

Concerning “Bob’s” assertion that those who do not use the “sinner’s prayer” or have altar calls are cowardly Pharisees…well, some might be, but many might not be. That was completely uncalled for. They might not use either in their evangelistic efforts simply because neither one is used anywhere in the New Testament. There certainly might be a call to face one’s sin, repent and come to Christ, but no specific reciting of the sinner’s prayer as a mandatory act. “Altar calls” are a human invention that started with “the anxious bench” in Charles Finney’s day.

What’s the point of all this? It’s simple.

God is sovereign in the salvation of sinners!

_____________

Comments are encouraged.

Be Blessed!

“This Is How Jesus Would Use Social Media!”

The above title is one of the leading statements for the marketing page for something called The Digital Missionary Academy. I found out about it this morning while scanning Facebook. I probably received it because I often respond to Christian FB posts, and because of a FB algorithm.

Please understand that I am not ‘bashing’ this particular online institution, nor am I averse to sharing Christ online. I am merely making a few ‘old guy’ observations that will probably reveal how I feel about the ‘Academy’ and like ventures. It goes with territory.

Having said that, I’ll share some of the text from the FB advertisement and share ‘old guy’ observations (in italics).   Please note that some of these observations are in the first person singular.

Trying to figure out how you’re going to spend the next 14 days stuck at home? Why not learn how to become a Digital Missionary?

Social media is the next frontier of effective evangelism… unfortunately very few Christians have the knowledge and skills to take advantage of it.

Effective evangelism, meaning that lost sinners are truly saved, depends on God, not me. My part is faithfully sharing the gospel that Christ that died for the sins of men I am ‘effective’. It is God who opens hearts to pay attention to the message. My part doesn’t change, whether it’s face to face, over the phone, via the internet, or handing someone a gospel tract to read. 

It’s not a lack of desire…

It’s a lack of training!

When you join Digital Missionary Academy, you’ll learn how to be active in your faith and lead others to Christ using the latest digital evangelism techniques…

So we are lead to believe that we need special training to be a ‘digital missionary” I suppose that means knowledge of, and training in the use of ‘digital’ devices. After all, the elements of the gospel message itself never change. The Apostle Paul was a ‘digital’ missionary and wrote

You can finally stop making excuses for not sharing your faith and learn how to live out the Great Commission, making disciples of all nations, even if your life is crazy busy!

WOW! You don’t have to share face-to-face and risk losing a friend who didn’t want to hear it! Less personal risk!

It only takes 20 minutes a week, and you’ll start to see results almost immediately.

Join Digital Missionary Academy today for FREE and see what you’ve been missing out on!

When you visit the site, you find out that what that actually means is that you can get a 30 day free trial and then pay $20.00 a month (a huge discount!) for the materials that will turn you into an effective evangelist and disciple maker. Here’s what you’ll get as a Digital Missionary Academy’ member:

  • Exclusive trainings with simple practicals so you can finally start bearing spiritual fruit and stop feeling guilty about not doing enough to share your faith ($197 Value)
  • Monthly challenges so you can instantly identify which of your friends are open and looking for God which means you can avoid that awkward feeling when you invite someone to church and they’re not even remotely interested ($47 Value)
  • Exclusive interviews so you can learn the tools, strategies, and success habits of top performing digital missionaries which means you can stop wondering if God only works through “super spiritual Christians” ($97 Value)
  • Proven “copy and paste” social media templates so you can instantly share high-performing church invitations without having to agonize over what to say or how to say it ($47 Value)
  • Online Courses like “Facebook Evangelism” so you can become a hyper-effective disciple-maker without spending four years and thousands of dollars to go to Bible college ($197 Value)
  • Instant access to the Digital Missionaries private Facebook group so you can learn from like-minded believers who are all encouraging each other to fight the good fight so you’ll never have to feel like you’re on your own (Priceless)

That’s a Total Value of $585 in training every month for only $20!

So if Jesus had social media, this is how he would have used it? I have a lot more on my mind about this, but I ‘ll not share it at the moment. This could be a Fox News moment………… I report, you decide.

Sharing Christ in a Hostile Culture, Part 2 – Situational Awareness

I find it interesting that the first paragraph of military combat orders cover the battlefield “Situation”, followed by “Mission”. Many of us might think that a statement of the missions would come first. ‘Situational Awareness’ (SA), a term familiar to many of us, means nothing more than recognizing your circumstances; knowing what’s going on around you. For instance, a military commander must be aware of the total situation (enemy and friendly) around him and his unit on the battlefield, as well as the bigger ‘strategic’ picture.  Total situational awareness is essential for successful military operations against any enemy, on any battlefield, for any warrior.  As Christians, and warriors in the Kingdom of God, we need to maintain complete situational awareness as inhabitants of planet earth (the battlefield environment), as well as our Commander’s intent (God’s strategic picture).

Sadly, we often lose focus of both our battlefield environment and our Commander’s intent, for a variety of reasons, ranging from our tendency to focus almost exclusively on ‘personal’ growth and fulfillment, to applying human wisdom and worldly principles to the operation of the ‘postmodern’ church as a whole.  At both levels, the result is that the Lord of the harvest, the Holy Spirit, sits in the back of the bus as we arrogantly occupy the driver’s seat!

Dear readers and friends, it is past time to regain our ‘situational awareness’ and overcome our spiritual ‘nearsightedness.’  For that task, we need to ‘begin at the beginning’ of our lives as Christians and go from there.  In a familiar and often quoted verse of Scripture, the Apostle Paul tells us:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”     2 Corinthians 5:17

What a promise – the greatest makeover of all time!  When we place saving faith in Christ, we step out of darkness and into the light, passing from death to life!  We are given a new nature in Christ as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our being, giving us a desire to serve God and the power to live a life of obedience to Him. This is common knowledge, not rocket science.

Our ‘makeover’ is so complete that in another of his letters to the early church, Paul presents what is a mystery to limited human logic.

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” – Ephesians 2:6

This is a bit more difficult for human logic to grasp, but notice the past tense verbs in this verse. Paul is saying that as Christians, although we physically remain here on planet Earth, we have already been ‘raised up’ and ‘seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.’  Paul partially explains this mystery in more easily understood terms a bit later in the same chapter:

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household. . .” – Ephesians 2:19

A citizen is a legal resident of a nation, country or state.  Paul is saying that, at the moment of salvation, our ‘legal citizenship’ status changed!  One could say that if before we received Christ, we could have visited the ‘heavenly realm,’ we would have been ‘illegal aliens.’  We are not like the child born to an American military family overseas, who has dual-citizenship status until he or she is 18 years old and needs to make a decision.  We are NOT dual citizens.  Now listen to the Apostle Peter in one of his letters to the early church:

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” – 1 Peter 2:11 

Do you see the contrast here? Paul tells us that at one time we were ‘aliens and foreigners’ to God’s household, while Peter tells us that as Christians we are now ‘aliens and strangers’ in the world in which we live!

Why is the world in which we live ‘foreign territory,’ why are we ‘aliens and strangers in it,’ and how do we apply these truths?

First, we need to understand that the world in which we live is not, the world that God created and pronounced ‘good’ and ’very good’.  In fact, Scripture tells us that the willful disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden affected more than just our little piece of turf.  There is a clear description of the present condition of God’s creation in Romans 8:17-24, in which we find the following:

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”  – Romans 8:22

All of God’s creation is somehow tainted, polluted by sin, and in need of redemption.

Scripture also gives us an interesting description of the state of the human race after the fall of Adam, as well as a who seems to be controlling things (the god of this world).

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”   – Ephesians 2:1-2

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4

As believers, we are citizens of the household of God, with a new ‘landlord,’ servants of the Most High God, no longer bound by the god of this world.  And as members of God’s household, we are now foreigners and strangers to the world we live in and enemies of the ‘god of this world.’

If you still aren’t convinced of your citizenship as a Christian, listen to the words of Jesus from his high priestly prayer:

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  – John 17:13-16

I have come to the inescapable conclusion that we are living behind enemy lines!  Perhaps this has caused your thought process to pause for a moment of speculation.  Maybe it came to a screeching halt because your first reaction was “No way!”  Then hear what the Apostle James had to say to believers in his day who were becoming a bit too ‘friendly’ with the fallen culture around them.

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”  James 4:4

If you still aren’t convinced that we are living in enemy territory, I encourage you to read James 4in its entirety, followed by Jesus’ words to his followers in John, chapters 15 and 16, concerning what to expect from the world that is hostile to God.

All of the above leaves with an inescapable question: “Why are we still down here?”   More to follow.

Sharing the Gospel in a Hostile Culture, Part 1 – Be Available

It’s not exactly rocket science that our American culture seems to be more hostile to public expressions of Christianity with each passing day. Christian values across the board are ridiculed when they run counter to a society’s prevailing values and attitudes, and it’s nothing new. At the same time, sharing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is both the mission and great privilege of all believers. So how are we to accomplish this mission knowing that merely expressing our faith in public settings outside of our respective faith communities?

This is the first in a series of articles addressing this all important issue from the personal perspective of an old soldier who just wants “to leave something behind” (to quote the title of a Sean Rowe song) that might help others traveling along Gospel Highway.

As the above title states, the first step is to just ‘be available’. It sounds easy, but it might be more difficult that it sounds. While all of us have at one time or another told God (not without a certain amount of pride) that we are available to do whatever he commands us to do, who among us has not taken a step backward when faced with very real consequences of exiting the jump door of a high performance aircraft into unknown darkness. Paratrooper metaphor aside, it can be scary. So before you declare to our Savior your willingness and availability to share His gospel with the world around you, consider the cost in terms of what it will mean in your personal life. Are you ready to be open about your Christian faith, no matter what? That’s the starting point. Keeping your faith to yourself isn’t an option.

While I might not know you, I do know that if you are available, God will use you. Here are a few examples I know of from within the Special Forces community.

  • ·A small detachment of SF soldiers were training in the Allegheny forest in Pennsylvania. One of the men was known by all of the men to be a Christian, although he didn’t advertise it. Another of the men, a team medic, was dating a girl from Boston who was a Christian and talked about God now and again. The entire detachment was sitting around a camp fire in the woods (non-tactical) and the medic started talking about his ‘Christian’ girlfriend from Boston and asking questions.
  • ·An SF Battalion field headquarters was established in the Cape Cod area for a training exercise. During the exercise one of the SF soldiers in the Bn died when both of his parachutes failed during an infiltration operation in upstate NY. His name was Bob and he was a strong believer. The Bn Commander in the Cape Cod location wanted to have a memorial service for Bob and asked for someone who was close to Bob to visit with the local minister who was to mold the service in the field headquarters. As a result of the meeting, the entire field headquarters heard a clear presentation of the gospel message, from the commander (LTC) on down.
  • ·An SF “A” Team Leader (CPT) was killed over Lockerbie Scotland in 1988 returning from an exercise planning event. The Pan Am aircraft was destroyed by a bomb. One of his Team Sergeants, an E-8, who had served his Team for a year before being reassigned to another position in the 10th SF Group, was a believer and all of the team members knew it. The former Team Sergeant attended the funeral service at the SF Chapel at Ft. Devens. When the casket bearers were walking from the chapel to the waiting hearse, the former Team Sgt’s eyes and the eyes of the casket bearers met and a silent reminder of the finality of death passed between them.

We share these examples solely to demonstrate what can happen, in God’s providence, just because you are available, without any overt actions on your part. No initiating religious conversations, passing out Gospel literature, or “I’m a Fool for Jesus, Whose Fool Are You?” bumper stickers. God opens doors. All we do is walk through those doors and let God be God. Seeds of the Gospel are sown and souls are eternally saved.

I leave you with a question.

Are you available?

Be blessed as you grow in Christ!

The Greatest Work In The World!

By Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe | 1972

There are many good things that a man can do in the world today. But I have a conviction that the greatest work any of us can do is to help lead people to Jesus Christ. You do not have to be a “full-time Christian worker” to be a soul-winner. In fact, many of our greatest soul-winners are dedicated men and women who hold “ordinary” occupations, but who use every opportunity to witness for Christ.

We use the word “soul-winner” so often, and yet I wonder if we really know what it means? Perhaps it would be helpful to us if we discovered from the Bible just what a soul-winner is and what he is supposed to do. As I was studying this subject, I was interested to find many pictures of the soul-winner in the Bible; and I want to share some of these pictures with you.

The soul-winner is a shepherd.

“Let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).

James is speaking particularly about Christians who may stray from the truth, but his words also apply to the lost. If it is important for us to guide wandering believers back into God’s way, how much more important it is to guide unbelievers! We are shepherds, out seeking the wandering sheep. “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). If the lost sheep is left to himself, he will die; and if the lost soul is left to himself, he will perish forever.

Here is one reason society is in a mess: people have strayed from the truth. It was a gradual thing. First men questioned God’s truth; then they criticized it; then they ignored it; then they laughed at it. The world would rather believe lies than face God’s truth, in spite of the fact that these lies are leading men to death.

Jesus told the story about the shepherd who went out into the wilderness to find the lost sheep. What a beautiful picture of the soul-winner!

“But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed,
Nor how black was the night that the Lord went through,
E’er He found His sheep that was lost.”

The most important characteristic for a shepherd is love. The Good Shepherd so loved us that He laid down His life for the sheep. Do we love lost souls enough to search them out and share the Good News with them? Or are we so wrapped up in our own plans that we do not have time to think about the other person? We are supposed to be shepherds who help to guide the wandering back into the fold.

The soul-winner is a hunter.

Proverbs 11:30 says, “He that winneth souls is wise.” That word “winneth” has the idea of “catching, as a hunter catches an animal.” We are supposed to “capture” souls!

In many ways, the lost sinner is just like an animal. Jesus said to Saul of Tarsus, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 9:5). What is a goad? It is the sharp stick that the farmer uses to prod his lazy animals. God was “prodding” Saul; He was treating Saul like a stubborn animal! The lost sinner is just like a stubborn animal: he wants his own way, and yet he does not realize that his own way leads to death.

Just as it takes love to be a shepherd, so it takes skill to be a hunter. It takes skill to “capture” lost souls. The hunter is careful not to frighten the animal. He is very careful not to permit his scent to be carried to the animal. I wish more Christians were that wise! Too often unsaved people “get the scent” from the church and know all the things that are going wrong! We Christians must be very careful not to get in the way of the wind, but to let the “wind of the Spirit” blow as He desires.

Hunters will use different approaches in capturing animals. Many different kinds of traps are mentioned in the Bible, because you cannot use the same approach with different animals. Too often you and I use the same approach with every lost person, and we wonder why we often fail. It takes skill to be a hunter, and it takes skill to be a successful soul-winner.

The soul-winner is a fisherman.

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Christ called four fishermen to be disciples—Peter, Andrew, James, and John. And remember that fishing was not their hobby; it was their life’s work. To them, catching fish was not fun: it was a matter of life or death!

Do you know why Jesus called four fishermen? Because fishermen know how to stick with the job and get it done. You will rarely see a fisherman sitting around doing nothing. He is either casting his nets, or cleaning his nets, or repairing his nets. He is always wrapped up in fishing. So it is with the soul-winner: he is always involved in witnessing—and he stays at it! The most important thing about a fisherman is his ability to stick with it, because fishing can be a very difficult and disappointing vocation.

Too often, we “fishers of men” give up too soon. When the going gets tough, we decide to head for shore and give up fishing for a while. We sit around and discuss fishing instead of heading out to the depths to let down the nets! One preacher has suggested that most Christians have ceased to be fishers of men. Instead, they are owners of beautiful aquariums, and they spend most of their time moving the fish from one tank to another!

In Bible days, fishermen had three methods of fishing: hooks, spears, and nets. Peter let the hook down and caught the fish that contained the money for the taxes. If you plan to use a hook, be sure you have the right kind of bait, and be sure you stay alert so you know when the fish is there! It takes real skill and patience to use the spear, but this is a good way to get fish. Just keep your eye on the one you want, and spear him!

But the best way is the net, because you can catch more fish that way. It requires several men to use the nets; soul-winners must learn how to work together. To be sure, not every “fish” will be a good one. Jesus warns us that the net will contain all kinds of fish, some good and some bad (Matthew 13:47-50); but the presence of the bad fish is no reason for us to reject the good fish. Not every fish we catch for the Lord will be a true believer, but many of them will; and the more we try to catch, the bigger will be the percentage of true believers.

If we are going to bring souls to Christ, we must be like the fishermen that Jesus called: we must have persistence. Only God can give the catch, no matter how hard we may toil. And let’s remember that only God knows how big the catch is! Let’s not get so wrapped up in numbers that we forget how important one individual soul is to Jesus Christ.

The soul-winner is a harvester.

Jesus tells us to “look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35-38). It takes all kinds of workers to have a harvest: people to plow, people to sow and water, people to fight weeds, and people to reap the grain. But all of them are a part of the harvest! This is why soul-winners are compared to harvesters: we need to practice cooperation. Not compromise, but cooperation, a willingness to work together.

There is no end to what God will do for the Christian who does not care who gets the credit. The important thing out in the field is not competing for attention, but reaping the harvest. We are laborers together, and each one must help the other.

God has given us some marvelous tools for harvesting the grain: radio, television, literature, cassettes, computers, and a host of other tools. We are not to use these tools to impress each other, but to gather in the harvest. I fear that too often we harvesters are using the sickles on each other instead of on the grain! It is discouraging to see how one Christian attacks another Christian, or one worker criticizes another worker; and all the time the harvest is going to waste. One of the basic laws of the harvest is partnership: one sows, another reaps, but God gives the increase.

The soul-winner is an ambassador.

“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Imagine! We are God’s ambassadors! This certainly puts dignity into this business of winning souls! Instead of apologizing when we witness for Christ or make a visit in a home, we ought to act like dedicated dignitaries, sent by God—because that is exactly what we are! “As my Father hath sent Me, so send I you” (John 20:21).

As ambassadors, we have been chosen and commissioned; and our task is not to preach ourselves, but to represent the One Who sent us. “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord” (2 Corinthians 4:5). We represent Him, and we carry His message of peace. When an ambassador is sent to a foreign country, all his needs are met by his government, and he is protected by their armies. So with us: God has promised to meet all our needs, and His protection is our assurance of victory. All that the government asks is that the ambassador be faithful, and that is what God asks of us.

God is not at war with the world, but the world is at war with God. Our task as ambassadors is to tell the world that God loves sinners, Christ died for sinners, and that men can be reconciled to God. One of these days, God will declare war on the world; but before that happens, He will call His ambassadors home! While we are waiting, let’s be faithful ambassadors, representing Jesus Christ in the way we live and the words we speak.

The soul winner is a fireman.

“And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire” (Jude 23). “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zechariah 3:2).

The lost soul does not have to die to be in the fire; he is in the fire of condemnation right now! “He that believeth not is condemned already” (John 3:18). Lost people are already living in the “suburbs of hell,” yet they think their life is wonderful! Our task is to pull them out of the fire, because they are unable to save themselves. In other words, soul-winning requires urgency.

Perhaps this is why many Christians avoid trying to win souls: it is a bit risky to put your hands in the fire! Certainly soul-winners get “burned” occasionally but it’s worth a few scars to rescue somebody from eternal fire. Sometimes the situation gets a bit “hot,” but we must keep right on witnessing, because God may use us to snatch some precious soul out of the burning. And God has promised to be with us when we go through the fire, so there is really nothing to fear.

The next time you look at a lost soul, remember that he is already in the fire of sin and judgment. The worst is yet to come! Sin has so numbered him that he does not even feel the pains in his soul, and this is what makes his situation so tragic. Oh, the urgency of it! We must reach into the fire and help to pull them out! As those angels took hold of Lot and pulled him to safety out of Sodom, so we must lovingly snatch the brands out of the burning, before it is too late.

The soul-winner is a witness.

“If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? And He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? And shall He not render to every man according to his works?” (Proverbs 24:11-12).

The picture here takes us back to an Old Testament Jewish village. Here is a man who has been condemned to die. The elders are taking him outside the village to stone him to death, and you see the man as they go by. And you know that the man does not deserve to die! You have the one piece of evidence that will save his life! What are you going to do?

Some of us might say: “Well, I don’t want to get involved.” Or, “It’s too late to do anything now.” Or, “Who am I to tell others what to do?” God says, “Excuses! Excuses that will cost a man his life!” As soul-winners, you and I must be witnesses who have honest concern. It must burden us that men and women are being dragged off to judgment! It must concern us that we have the one message of life that can save them! The time has come for us to stop making excuses! Christ has left us here to be His witnesses, and our witness is the only thing that can save sinners from eternal death!

What does it take to be an effective soul-winner? It takes the love of a shepherd, the skill of a hunter, the cooperation of a harvester, the dignity of an ambassador, the urgency of a fireman, and the heart concern of a witness.

Let’s ask God to make us the kind of Christians that He can use to win others to Christ. Winning souls is the greatest work in the world—the most rewarding work in the world—the work that God blesses and that brings Him glory for all eternity!

______________

“Copyright © Moody Church Media. Used with Permission. www.moodymedia.org

Why I’m Not Overly Excited About the New Christian Movie ‘Overcomer’

I remember when I started seeing advertisements here and there about the Kendrick brothers’ new movie ‘The Overcomer’. I didn’t have the obligatory “I’ve GOT to see it!” feeling then and I don’t now, for reasons that might become clear in this article.

Please don’t hate me,

This morning I saw on Facebook a post from a friend and one of the Chaplains who serves at the chapel we attend here n Colorado. It was a link to an article from The Christian Post titled  ‘”Overcomer’ opens in top 3 at box office, grosses $8.2M”. I read it and clicked the link to a previous CP article about the movie called “’Overcomer’ doesn’t water down the Gospel, still appeals to nonbelievers, filmmakers say”, which I had previously read. There a few bits from both articles I found interesting that I will share with you.

First of all, let me be really clear that I am not condemning the film,, it’s admirable production value., the churches taking busloads to see it, or any individual who  pays to see it on the big screen, especially non-Christians who watch it and become interested in knowing more about Jesus Christ and saving grace as a result.

On to the subject of my  lack of excitement . Also bear in mind that I have not watched the film yet, a cardinal sin worthy of a certain level of condemnation from some of my Christian brethren. At the same time, the fact that a few remarks from these articles caught my attention just might mean that I have been paying attention while engaged in reading the Bible and studying its doctrine.

Since the article about box office results after the grand opening was the first article I read this morning, Keep in mind that I often read these sorts of articles about Christian film productions with the question “Did it/will it present a clear message of the gospel of Jesus Christ?”

The movie’s theme centers around a basketball coach in a manufacturing town who loses his tem when the plant sits down and a lot of people leave town. He ends up coaching a sport he doesn’t even enjoy  and  ends up realizing that his true identity is found in Christ, not in his own accomplishments. The ‘gospel’ moment in the article was this:

“As previously reported, the film does not shy away from the Kendrick brothers’ Christian message and centers around the message of Ephesians 1 and 2, which focuses on identity. The movie includes a scene where the sinner’s prayer is spoken and touches on things like learning how to pray and how to know God.”

That the sinner’s prayer is spoken could be a good thing, if what precedes the praying is an accurate discussion of WHY it needs praying – that all of , until God saves us, ‘dead in our trespasses and sin’ and ‘by nature children of wrath’ , as we are told in the first few chapters of Paul’s  letter to the Ephesians, which seems to be the source of the film’s argument that our true identify is in Christ, not our accomplishments.

The article tells us this:

“As previously reported, the film does not shy away from the Kendrick brothers’ Christian message and centers around the message of Ephesians 1 and 2, which focuses on identity. The movie includes a scene where the sinner’s prayer is spoken and touches on things like learning how to pray and how to know God.

“Satan loves to convince people that they’re the opposite of what Ephesians 1, 2 and 3 say they are,” Alex Kendrick told The Christian Post during a sit-down interview with CP earlier this month. “

While I agree with the above sentiment,  it is nowhere found in the referenced Ephesian text. The actual text focuses on our natural state without Christ , (‘dead in our trespasses and sin’ and ‘by nature children of wrath’ .  Then we wee in the text of Ephesians what are perhaps the most important words in all of scripture “But God……”, followed by a beautiful description of God’s complete sovereignty in the salvation of men, It is God who raises up dead men, makes them alive in Christ , and gives them a new identity.

This new identity in Christ is very real, and the result of God’s intent to save all of his people, through the shed blood of his only Son.. Does ‘Overcomer’ address the ‘dead n trespasses and sin’ and ‘by nature children of wrath’ pieces of the puzzle?

On to the second article, ‘Overcomer’ doesn’t water down the Gospel, still appeals to nonbelievers, filmmakers say, which preceded It preceded report of the film’s opening by a few weeks.

While it provided a more detailed description of the movie’s theme and story line, it also said this:

““There’s a temptation to water down the truth, and the whole time we’ve been very overt and open about what we believe,” Stephen Kendrick said. “This story doesn’t water down the Gospel, and it’s embedded with the truth. We believe, now more than ever, that the Church needs to hear overt truth.”

Stephen Kendrick tells us that ‘there’s a temptation to water down the truth” (very true), and that ““This story doesn’t water down the Gospel”. (It doesn’t?)

“But we also understand the need to go to nonbelievers and communicate biblical truth in like a parable format as Jesus did. We try to package truth in an inspirational story that anybody can relate to. Everybody’s going to be touched by marriage difficulties at one point or another, or the trials that come with losing your identity. So regardless of what you believe, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll enjoy the movie, even if you don’t know the Lord. We try to include the Gospel in all of our movies so that a nonbeliever will hear it and hopefully come to Christ as a result of it.”

We are told that we all have marriage difficulties and trials that come with losing our identities, which is also true,  Then comes the most troubling tidbit (at least for this guy):

“We try to include the Gospel in all of our movies so that a nonbeliever will hear it and hopefully come to Christ as a result of it.”

Doesn’t the Bible tell us that the unbeliever hates God and cannot please Him (Romans 8:7-8),or even understand  spiritual things and considers them foolishness (which the gospel is) (1 Corinthians 2:14)?

Lastly, no unbeliever truly  comes to Christ to ‘rediscover their identity’. There is one, and only one reason to embrace Christ – for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus died  to fix our sin problem, not our identity crisis. ‘Overcomer’ might be a good movie fort hose who are already believers (like the movie’s main character) and having identity issues, but if it doesn’t discuss the issues of sin and repentance from it for the forgiveness of sins, it’s weak in the proclamation of the gospel. The ‘gospel’ that says Jesus died to solve your identity crisis (or any other temporal problem) can’t save anyone, but it might point them in the right direction.

Sneakers & Evangelism

Did Colin Kapenick influence Nike’s decision to pull the Betsy Ross themed new sneakers? Some say yes, including CNBC, Wall Street Journal, and just about every news outlet on the planet.

The WSJ reported:

“Nike Inc. is yanking a U.S.A.-themed sneaker (the “Air Max 1 USA”) featuring an early American flag after NFL star-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick told the company it shouldn’t sell a shoe with a symbol that he and others consider offensive.”

One Radio Station reported that:

“Nike Pulls Shoes Featuring Betsy Ross Flag Over Concerns About Racist Symbolism”

Here is Nike’s first official response:

“Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured an old version of the American flag,” Nike told CNBC in a statement.

Given the reports of the world’s news outlets, only a very few people (those with ‘asparagus’ level intellects?) will buy Nike’s first official response. Later in the day yesterday Nike responded again:

“We regularly make business decisions to withdraw initiatives, products and services. NIKE made the decision to halt distribution of the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday.

Well, Nike, CK and news outlets aside, I couldn’t help but think about how interesting it would be to write a similar article about much of today’s Christian evangelism. It could be titled,

“Evangelical Leaders Remove ‘Sin’ and ‘Repentance’ from the Gospel Message Because the Terms Might be Offensive”

Although there is a general similarity in the theme that something that might “offend” someone in both cases (sneakers and the gospel), there are significant differences between the two.

1. Nike made its decision just this week and received a ton of backlash. Evangelicalism’s removal of ‘sin’ and ‘repentance’ in the gospel message is nothing new, and can be traced back to the late ‘80’s, if not further in the past.

2. Due to the removal of ‘sin’ and ‘repentance’ from the message of the gospel occurring sometime in the past (a book by noted psychologist Carl Menninger “Whatever Became of Sin?” was published in 1988), whatever backlash that might have been received is mostly in the past.  There might have been strong opposition early on, but slowly the thought that we could win people to Christ just talking about how much he loves us became firmly entrenched in modern evangelical thought.

3. Finally (for now), the genuine gospel message IS a matter of offense to the unbeliever!

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18)

Because sinners love their sin and darkness (and all of us are sinners), it takes a sovereign act of God to open a sinful heart to pay attention to the gospel message that addresses man’s sinfulness. But since God is really good at opening hearts to hear the gospel (see Acts 16 and the story of Lydia). Hearts ARE opened, the true gospel is preached, and sinners are saved!

And that’s what the whole Nike/Colin Kapernick/Betsy Ross sneakers issue got me thinking about.

My question to you is this:

“What’s worse, caving in to cultural demands for inoffensive sneakers, ot sending people to hell with a false gospel?

Food for thought……………………………

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!