So Great a Salvation

From The Cripplegate

“I am a Christian.” “I am saved.” “I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.” 

I wonder if we grasp the fullness of what that means. Though we cannot know all the fullness of salvation until we are with the Lord, Scripture escorts us in to the beginnings of salvation’s glory. Truly, ours is a great salvation. 

The diagram above and list below briefly describes actual, historical expressions of God’s sovereign grace. Above is a historical timeline of God’s loving grace in the salvation of a Christian. We can kind of think of it like our biography, but it’s stuff God did for us, before we were born, after, and still after. These 16 aspects of salvation are 16 marks of God’s work in redemptive history. They are expressions of God’s love towards the Christian. They are each a river flowing from God’s sovereignty combining in the deluge of God’s grace to those in Jesus Christ.

The following is a brief description of our great salvation. As we consider our salvation, let us recall that, regardless of what we are going through, nothing can rob us of any of these aspects of God’s love in salvation.

In Eternity Past

Prior to creating all things, God architected his plan of salvation.

1. Election (Rom. 8:29-30, Eph. 1:3-6).

Before God made the universe by the power of his word, he chose for himself a people who would receive the gift of salvation. He did so, not motivated by any merit or action of the recipients (for they were not yet created and would only sin), but based solely upon his own will for his glory.

After Creation, at the Cross

Christ accomplished critical aspects of our salvation when he died on the cross.

2. Atonement (Eph. 1:7).

God the Father decided to redeem a sinful people and set his love upon elect sinners whom he had predestined for salvation before he made all things. Consequently, he sent his Son to quench his judicial wrath aroused by their sin. The punishment and penalty that the elect deserved was laid on Jesus Christ instead of them, so that in the cross both God’s holiness and love are manifested.

3. Propitiation (Rom. 3:26, 1 John 4:10).

Propitiation refers to the act where God’s righteous wrath is appeased or turned aside by the death of His Son on the cross. As such, it is a supreme act of love on the part of the Father and Son. If there is a God of justice who redeems a people who are imperfect, then salvation and forgiveness can thereby only occur through propitiation. All such systems which propose a theory of forgiveness and salvation, and yet do not feature an impeccable propitiatory sacrifice, break down and offer at best a fictitious salvation.

The Moment You Become a Christian

Many glorious things happen to us, in time, the moment that we become a Christian.

4. Effectual Call (John 6:44, Eph. 4:1).

The moment in time at which God applies his work of salvation. God will effectually call to salvation all whom he has predestined before creation for salvation. All whom God elects, he will effectually call to salvation such that they will be saved.

5. Regeneration (John 3:3-6, Titus 3:5).

Regeneration answers the question, “How can individuals dead in sin, unable and unwilling to please God, respond to the gospel?” Regeneration, or the new birth, is the work of God’s Holy Spirit in which He changes the spiritual nature of a person, bringing him from death to life. It is the beginning of all true heart change, as it is a change of nature. It results in a life of ongoing transformation (sanctification) and ends in the complete transformation of the believer into the image of Christ (glorification).

6. Faith (Eph. 1:13, 2:8-9).

Faith is the gift of God that enables the elect to believe what He says, to trust Him with our lives, and to live upon His Word. Apart from regeneration it is morally and spiritually impossible for someone to repent and put faith in Christ. Similarly, when God regenerates a person, it is impossible for that person not to repent and put faith in Christ. Regeneration is the act of God alone. But faith is technically not the act of God. The ability to believe is a gift of God in regeneration. But it is not God who puts faith in Christ. It is the regenerate sinner. Faith is the God-appointed means by which the benefits of God’s saving work are appropriated.

7. Repentance (Mark 1:15, Acts 11:18).

Repentance is the gift of God that enables the sinner to turn from sin and self in order to turn to God. It involves a real change of heart/mind that results in a change of life.

8. Justification (Rom. 3:24-28, 5:1).

Justification answers the question, “How can condemned, guilty sinners stand righteous before a holy God?” Appropriated by faith alone, it is the legal action by which God declares the believer to be freed from his guilt and made right before God’s law. Unlike regeneration, it does not change the nature of the believer. Justification alters the believer’s legal position before God, changing it from guilty to innocent. It is the outcome of atonement and the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness to the believer.

9. Imputation (Gen. 15:6, Rom. 5:19, 2 Cor. 5:21).

Imputation can be thought of as a subset of justification; of God’s justifying work on behalf of the sinner. It is God’s act of placing one person’s sin or righteousness upon another’s account in a manner which does not violate justice. Adam’s sin was imputed or transferred to all humanity. The believer’s sin was placed upon the account of Jesus when He was crucified. Christ’s righteousness is placed on the account of the believer. Thus, the believer’s sin was reckoned to Christ, and the Savior’s perfect obedience was reckoned to the believer.

10. Redemption (Col. 1:14).

Redemption is purchasing someone’s freedom. It speaks of a transfer of ownership by payment. The sinner is freed from his enslavement to sin and from the curse of God’s law by Jesus’ substitutionary atoning death on the cross. Christ does not redeem us from Satan, but from the just wrath of God. Upon regeneration, every elect sinner is freed from the slavery to sin and the penalty of the law.

11. Adoption (Eph. 1:5).

Adoption describes the new relationship the believer has to God by using a family-related term. God, subsequent to the new birth and justification, makes the believer His adopted child. The believer enters into all the responsibilities and joys of being in God’s family. Adoption is permanent. The elect, regenerate sinner will never be disowned from God’s family because his adoption depends on the irrevocable saving work of Jesus Christ—in his substitutionary atoning work on the cross. There is no more privileged place to be than all the universe than a child of God.

12. Reconciliation (Col. 1:22).

Reconciliation is the restoration of the relationship between God and man. It includes a change in man’s attitude toward God. Man is brought from being at enmity with God to friendship and sonship. God’s righteous anger is turned aside by the cross of Jesus, thereby removing the offense of sin and making it possible for God to bring man into fellowship with him.

13. Union with Christ (Rom. 6:5).

Union with Christ is the biblical description of the believer’s relationship to his Savior. By faith, the believer embraces Jesus as presented in the gospel. God unites the believer spiritually to Jesus as his Mediator. This personal connection to Jesus is the source of all the believer’s privileges. All that Christ accomplished for the believer is shared by virtue of this unbreakable union. The regenerate can no more be fractured from Christ than Christ himself can be split in two.

From Regeneration until Death/Presence with Christ

Two additional aspects of our salvation occur from regeneration until we are with Christ.

14. Sanctification (John 15:2, 2 Cor. 3:18, Phil. 2:12-13).

This is a glorious process where God transforms the regenerate into the most wonderful Person in the universe. Consequent of regeneration, the believer is daily conformed in thought, worship, motivation, and deed by the work of the Spirit, making the believer holy in his practice. As the regenerate engages in Scripture, prayer, the local church, and God’s providence, the Holy Spirit transforms him progressively into the image of Christ.

15. Perseverance (Phil. 1:6).

The regenerate will not fall away from his relationship to God. Rather, he will endure until the end and go to heaven. All who are elect will end up in heaven. Jesus will not lose even one of the Father’s elect. The golden-chain of salvation, as it is often coined, means that the elect are as good as glorified. God finishes what he begins. Those who appear not to persevere were never regenerate notwithstanding a previous appearance of belief.

From Death/Presence with Christ to Eternity Future

The final step of our salvation occurs once we enter the presence of Christ.

16. Glorification (Rom. 8:29-30, 1 John 3:2).

Glorification refers to the completion of all aspects of the believer’s salvation. It is the final step of his rescue that comes when, in heaven, he sees Christ face to face and is ultimately transformed into a sinless being. Upon death, the elect will be permanently rid of sin. The battle with sin will be over. Glorification will mean the inability to ever be contrary to God in motivation, thought, nature, desire, word, and deed. We will be unable to sin. We will only perfectly obey God’s law in fullness; perfectly loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and, perfectly considering others more important than ourselves. 

Conclusion

This is not all that could be said about our great salvation. But, these touch on the wonder of God’s sovereign love towards every single one of his children. Considering that all believers entered this world dead in sin, hostile towards God, and loving unrighteousness, this 16-fold grace of God teeters on the edge of blasphemy. It veers close to a shameful scandal that such wretched sinners would be the recipients such titanic love. Nevertheless, this is the case. A Christian is someone who can say, “By the grace of God, I am saved.”

Dear Christian, is our salvation not great?! Are these not reasons to lift our chin up? We are saved!

Is this not cause to keep going during our brief sojourning when it feels like we can go no farther? We are saved!

Are these not reasons to press forward in a dreadful world that pushes back? We are saved!

Is this not cause to walk in hope?! We are saved!

Glory to God! We are saved!

“God wants to choose YOU!”

The above statement is from a recent Facebook post with a link to a message presented at one of a mega-church’s many campuses by a young enthusiastic pastor. The FB post included a short excerpt from the actual message and invited the reader to listen to it in its entirety.

When I first read “God wants to choose YOU!” my immediate thought was:

“God WANTS to choose you?”

I didn’t remember anything in scripture that says, or implies, that  God ‘wants/wanted’ to choose anything or anyone. My second thought was this:

“God wants to choose YOU, but . . . . .”

But ‘what’? How many times has any one of us had an experience something like “I wanted to buy such and such, but. . . .” There’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there? I wanted to hear the young preacher’s ‘but’, although I suspected an end of sermon invitation of some sort. So I listened to the entire sermon. I also had a pleasant FB conversation with the gentleman who posted the invitation.

On to the message. It was based primarily on a single passage, 1 Peter 2:9:

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (NKJV)

The pastor then presented a lot of truth from scripture concerning salvation, grace, and the fact that the only thing we bring to our own salvation is SIN. It was really good!

At the same time, he suggested that Peter’s theme in the letter was to persuade/convince the elect exiles of their identity as believers, as if maybe they weren’t sure, or had doubts. I would disagree with that. Peter was reminding them of who they were and proceeded to encourage them to persevere through suffering. I base my disagreement on having studied both of Peter’s letters recently in an adult Bible Study using John MacArthur’s study guide, and multiple commentaries I consulted as the leader of our small group.

Back to my immediate thoughts concerning the thought “God wants to choose YOU, but. . .”

But what? God can’t just choose for himself whomever he wants and make it happen? He is God, after all. Well, he could, but before he chooses, something else has to happen? What might that be?

While the young pastor didn’t specifically include a “but” at the end of his key assertion, the clear implication is that he meant “but YOU need to do something”. That would be perfectly consistent with the thought by many, if not most evangelicals, that God ‘elects/chooses’ those who he knows will choose him. That’s called the ‘prescient’ view of God’s foreknowledge – that God looked down the corridors of time and chose those who would choose him. Is that scriptural? I’ll leave that there for you to ponder.

As for this young pastor, I pray that he would listen to his own sermon, the glorious portrait of the total sovereignty of God in salvation he painted for his audience, and then realize the invitation he gave left the determining factor in salvation up to human decision.

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13, ESV)

The Power of God in Salvation

15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Rom 1:15-16, ESV)

In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul expressed his eagerness to personally visit Roman believers and preach to them the gospel face-to-face. He then explains why he so eager, because (for) the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.

The above passage poses to us two questions, 1) What is the gospel?, and 2) What is this “power of God” of which Paul speaks?

The answer to the first question, ‘What is the gospel?’ is really simple, since Paul defined it, and very specifically, in his first letter to the Corinthian church;

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. . .” (1 Cor 15:1-4)

As to the second question, What is the power of God for salvation?

First of all it is for, or unto salvation, meaning that it’s a power that unfailingly moves an unbeliever to repent of sin and believe in Christ, and then carries the new believer all the way to ultimate glorification and eternity in the presence of God, and his Son. Why do I say this? Because of what Paul tells us later on in the same letter to the Roman church:

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”.(Romans 8:28-30, ESV)

Note that in the above passage Paul first tells us that everything works together for the ultimate good of the those who love God and have been called according to his (God’s) purpose. Most of are familiar with, and love that verse. We also tend to separate it from what follows – the WHY of Paul’s argument. With the use of the preposition ‘for’, Paul tells us how all the ‘stuff of life’ works for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

Secondly, this salvation pertains to a group of people he calls ‘foreknown’ ones. God foreknew them, not what they might do at some point in their lives. The text is unmistakably clear. It’s the same ‘knowing’ expressed concerning the prophet Jeremiah, of whom God said “before you were in your mother’s womb, I knew you”. And on behalf of all those whom God foreknew, he demonstrated his mighty power in

It’s predestining, or predetermining power. We are told that God determined beforehand that a certain group of people would be conformed to the image of his Son, not that he would create the possibility to be conformed to the image of Christ. If you are thinking that salvation is not in view here, think again. Does being conformed to the image of Christ require salvation, or not? if the former is predestined, so must be the latter.

It’s calling power. It’s a call that produces the desired results, each and every time it goes forth. Jesus didn’t ask dead, stinking Lazarus if he would consider coming out of the grave, He commanded, “Lazarus, come forth!” If God’s call of the guilty sinner is ‘for salvation’, guess what is going to happen?

It’s justifying power. When God justifies, he declares the sinner perfectly righteous IN Christ, although not a one of us will die completely free of sin in our mortal selves. Who is IN Christ? All those who have been predestined to be conformed to Christ and called by God to repent of sin and believe in Christ.

And finally, it’s glorifying power. Just as Christ was resurrected and glorified in the presence of God, at whose right hand he now sits, all who were foreknown, predestined, called, and justified, were also glorified. Note the past tense used on our Romans passage. It’s important. It’s a done deal in the mind of God! We have yet to see it, but God has decreed it!

You might have noticed that sanctifying power is not mentioned in our Romans passage. I would like to suggest that sanctification is undeniably implicit in God’s having predestined those he foreknew to be conformed to the image of his Son,  We would all agree (Reformed and non-Reformed) that being conformed to the image of our Savior is the very definition of progressive sanctification,

In concluding this article, I ask you one thing. Do you think, even for a moment, that the power of God for salvation that is described herein could be thwarted by any other power?

Dear Lord, we pray that those who are already yours will be greatly humbled in the face of your power to save. We pray also that wherever there are those in need of salvation power, you would open hearts to hear the gospel, and send messengers to share that gospel.

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him – by Mike Ratliff

by Mike Ratliff, at Possessing the Treasure

41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:41-44 (NASB)

One of the aspects of our Christian faith that we lose sight of sometimes, and it gets us in trouble when we do, is how vital it is that we remain totally amazed that we ever got saved at all. We make a huge error when we forget this because that path leads to self-righteousness, self-absorption, and an ungrateful heart towards God. Even though we may not be fully aware that we are in that place of self-focus, we cannot be Spirit-led when we are full of self.

“God works in people’s hearts by sovereign grace, taking away their imperviousness to his word, taking away their inability to respond to that word, and changing the disposition of their hearts so that instead of saying “Nonsense” when they hear the word of Christ, they say, “That’s just what I need,” And they come.
Are you a Christian? A believer? Then you came to Christ because you found yourself willing, longing, desirous, wanting to, as well as, perhaps, not wanting to but knowing you must. How was that? It was because God worked in your heart to give you this desire. He changed you. It was his irresistible grace that drew you to the Savior’s feet. Praise him for it! It was one expression of his love to you.” – From: To All Who Will Come pp 184-185 by J.I. Packer

Even the most mature Christians are in great need of reflecting on the cross and what an astounding act of grace it is on God’s part to offer up His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, on the cross as a perfect sinless sacrifice, The Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of all those who will come. Not only has God provided the way to eternal life through the Son, He also draws His people to Him in such a way that they believe and repent in total surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Those who were God’s enemies who considered the cross as “Nonsense” and Christianity as, at best, a pie in the sky religion that is only the “Opiate of the Masses,” come to Him as the Father draws them. All who come are His and He will raise them up on the last day.

Yes, all of us are in great need of seeing our salvation from God’s perspective. The current trend in the 21st Century in some parts of the visible Church is for the focus to be on being a Christian for temporal gain or to gain God’s favor through being a Social Justice Warrior. However, those who see the truth of their sin and totally lost condition until God saved them will not consider this life to be the focal point of it.

31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:31-34 (NASB)

The part many have a problem with in this passage is in their own experience of not having what Jesus lists here as being added to them. The part that is misunderstood here though is that the condition is that they must first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness then all of the stuff is added to them. The interesting thing about this is that the key part of this passage is not in getting the stuff, but in the seeking first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness. This is describing what God’s genuine disciples do. They put God first in all things. They walk through each day seriously considering every decision in light of God’s glory and their walk with Him. When they do that the interesting thing which happens is that concern about “stuff” goes away. They become content where God has them doing what God has them doing. All of their needs are met to the point that enables them to accomplish His will in this. This passage is not a guarantor of health, wealth, prosperity, or acceptance by the world.

Those who live this way consider the cross and Christ crucified. They take that into account in all they do. They see that the cost has been counted and paid by their Saviour. They live the rest of their life seeking to be obedient to their Lord in all they do. They also know that it is by God’s grace that they can do so, not their own abilities.

Lastly, their values change to match those of Christ’s. Perhaps the believer starts out focused on the world’s concept of “justice” and “fairness” and attempts to align all that with the gospel and their walk with Christ, but when the focus of the believer becomes eternal rather than the temporal, they will see themselves as a branch attached to the vine (John 15) rather than a Social Justice Warrior. Their focus becomes that of one seeking to be that living sacrifice acceptable to God who is being transformed through the renewing of their mind daily, that is, living for Christ in all they do (Romans 12:1-2) with the result being them becoming that Christlike believer who finishes the narrow path to the Celestial City as a mature believer to be accepted into the arms of their Savior and hears that welcoming cry, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Most Precious Golden Chain?

Do you like gold chains? Most, if not all of us, certainly do. Go to a jewelry store and you’ll find a wide variety of them, different styles designed for various uses, for both men and women. Am I right? That’s a rhetorical question. Personally, I don’t have any because I’m just not into jewelry. Some men are; just ask Mr. T (remember him?)! Our oldest son, when he was about 4 years old, just about had a fit when he say what I called a ‘Mr. T Starter Kit’ and Mom didn’t want to buy it for him.

Nevertheless,. There is one Golden Chain that many believers (if not most of us), aren’t all that fond of. It’s the Golden Chain of Redemption and it’s found in Romans 8, Verse 29-30:

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

Essentially, what we have are five links in an unbreakable chain, about a group of people who were ‘foreknown’ by God and also ‘predestined’, ‘called’, ‘justified’, and ‘glorified’.

Of these 5 links, the first two are outside of time, as we know it. God both foreknew and predestined this particular group of people outside of time as we know it. We have a clue concerning ‘how far’ outside of time as we know it in Ephesians 1 and 2 Thessalonians:

The next two links are inside of time as we know it. Each person in this group of ‘foreknown’ and ‘predestined’ ones is ‘called’ and ‘justified’ during his/her  lifetime, in preparation for the final link, ‘glorification’, when they are all raised in newness of life to be with Jesus forever. Is that beautiful, or what!?

The chain is unbreakable in at least two ways. First, it is God who is performs all of the actions represented in these 5 golden links. If that isn’t enough to prove the indestructible nature of our chain,  each of these Divine actions is presented to us in the past tense, meaning that from God’s perspective, it’s a done deal! Each and every person of whom this text speaks, everyone ‘foreknown’ of God WILL be ‘glorified’!

Sadly, whatever ‘foreknown’ means in our text, there are those who will not be saved but will die in their sins. The Bible speaks of those who will suffer eternal punishment rather than eternal life. That means that there are those who are NOT ‘foreknown’ in the sense of our text. But that’s another post.

The question for you today, my friend, is this:

“Are you to be found somewhere in this Golden Chain?”

I can assuredly proclaim that if you have been convicted of your condition in sin, have repented of it, and believed in Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are not only ‘found in’ this Chain, but you are eternally secure in its warm embrace! If you are a believer in Christ you were indeed ‘foreknown’ by God, ‘called’ by God into a Holy life, ‘justified’ by the blood of Christ and will one day be ‘glorified’!

This is cause to rejoice and be exceedingly glad!

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“Go with the Gospel and Leave the Saving to Me” – God

One of the most bizarre things I’ve heard recently from someone in a conversation about discussing ‘sin’ when we evangelize was the notion that talking about sin should be reserved for AFTER someone accepts Christ and in order to help new believers overcome sin(s) that seem to hang on. Even when knowing that Jesus died for our sins, don’t bring up the issue of sin until after someone accepts Christ. It’s only necessary to ‘love’ them into the kingdom.

It was really hard NOT to rebuke the individual who expressed that sentiment, but I’m sure she really meant it! Then I remembered a long time ago when I believed the same thing, and just as sincerely!

So what changed? A combination of things, I guess:

  • Remembering the great big God I was taught as a young teen in Lutheran Catechism. A God who was more than just love.
  • Reading Martin Luther’s ‘Bondage of the Will’.
  • Reading Jonathan Edwards’ ‘Freedom of the Will’.
  • Reading great authors and preachers who talked about the sovereignty of God in salvation.
  • More than any of the above, reading and studying the Bible concerning the true state of fallen men.

There really was a time when I really believed I could just keep telling folks how much Jesus loved them and what great plans he had for them and some would finally catch on and run to Jesus. Another operating assumption – for NOT talking about ‘sin’ when trying to lead someone to Christ is that they might get offended and walk away. If/when we also believe that we need to make Jesus attractive to the lost sinner, we won’t mention that which would be offensive to them. I needed to keep the ‘love’ conversation going if I was going to help God save them!

On the other hand, when we realize, from scripture, that the lost are in love with their sin and hate God, but God opens hearts to the message of the Gospel (see Lydia in Acts 16), we become bold in our proclamation of it, including the offensive bits.

I’m reminded of an old commercial for a commercial bus line. “Go Greyhound and Leave the Driving to Us” I wonder if God isn’t trying to tell us, concerning our sharing of his Gospel: “Go with the Gospel and Leave the Saving to Me”

Food for thought?

This World Is Crazy and It’s Not Getting Better

I don’t know if we are getting ‘dumber and dumber’ or just know more of the ‘dumbness’ that’s always been there, thanks to social media.

Anybody with a big mouth can rant all over Facebook, with or without any brain activity having taken place, about ANYTHING. Pick a topic and you’ll find the lack of intelligent and logical thought of full display. It usually manifests as information taken out of context, or before all the facts are in before ranting about one’s pet peeve or worshipping/championing one’s favorite idol.

We who profess Christ aren’t quite as bad, but we have our moments. Internet trolls camp out on our blogs talking endlessly about how they deny God and how believers can’t really think for themselves, but have to rely on a God who doesn’t exist. And they go on and on and on if we let them.

I think we become their enablers when we keep trying to ‘prove’ God exists. Atheists hate God by their very nature, while they DO know he exists, and when we use a bit of logic they say we aren’t capable of truly rational thought. When we keep using reason and logic it just fuels the fire, so to speak.  Is something a bit fuzzy here?

When we tell the atheist what God says about him we’re accused of personally insulting him. So we apologize for making him feel bad and go back to trying to ‘attract’ him to the God he hates. The atheist is more certain than ever that we are believing nonsense and, like the energizer bunny, goes on and on and on.

What’s wrong with us? My current reasoning is this:

There are basically two approaches to sharing God, Jesus, and the gospel:

1. We can try and attract people to Jesus by getting them to like us and our church to prep them to fall in love with the eminently likable Jesus, who is all about love, all the time, and nothing else.

2. We can, with a burden in our hearts for the souls of lost men, share the problem we all have(sin), God’s judgment against it, and God’s remedy (the death of His Son as our substitute).

When we mix the two it reinforces the atheist’s conviction that we aren’t rational thinkers. We can appear to be unsettled in our convictions or confused about our beliefs.

Something that puzzles me is how believers will ‘Amen’ the latter approach privately, and almost always use the former when they interact with atheist trolls. Why is that? I can only speculate.

Personally speaking, I confess to having used both approaches. When I was a young believer, fresh with the realization of God’s manifest love in saving this sinner, I wanted to share that love with everyone I met. Now that I am older and know what the Bible really says about fallen men, my approach has changed. Some call it the presuppositional approach to evangelism.

The danger of presuppositionalism is omitting the ‘love’ of God from the discussion and/or just telling the atheist what the Bible says about him too early in the conversation. Perhaps the approaches can be described as either 1) ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you. . .’ or 2) ‘God loves you, BUT. . .’

I’ve learned (at least I think I have) that knowing and believing what the Bible says about the ‘natural’ man doesn’t mean I should tell every atheist how the Bible describes him. Rather, that knowledge should be humming in my brain and should drive HOW I share Christ with him.

Can I tell the atheist what the Bible says a out him? Certainly, but at the right time and in the right way.

So how do we know when the time is right? Maybe we can’t, but God can. So we pray before, during, and after our evangelistic encounters.We proclaim the simple truth about God, man, sin, and the remedy for sin, trusting God to do the saving. He doesn’t need our ‘help’, just our faithfulness to the gospel.