Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Focus of Evangelism

Surfing the 'net, one sees all kinds of things.

Recently, I began sharing the Gospel in a blog thread. This blog thread began with a report of a person who had come out of a life of sin and met Jesus. This is always wonderful to hear, especially to me because of my own background, which sometimes causes me to struggle in my own faith. Seeing someone else who was, in the practical sense, further "down the road of sin" than I was helps me remember that, yes, God can save someone like me, too! Well, in any case, someone came along ridiculing the Christian faith. And when I see something like that, it is an evangelistic opportunity. But it wasn't always that way.

For the first 8 years of my Christian life, I knew I was supposed to do evangelism. Yet, I was very confused about precisely what evangelism is and how it is to be done. Little did I know that the answer was right in front of my face, in the Scriptures.

For years, I was confused. I had heard so many talk of "a hole in the heart", or "loving them to Jesus" or "Letting them ask what is so different about me". Well, none of these things made sense to me, for various reasons.

Then in 2004, I would begin to see and hear something that made complete Biblical sense, and I am more convinced now than ever, that it still makes complete sense

It began when I saw Kirk Cameron present Biblical evangelism in one of the "Left Behind" movies. I didn't agree with everything in the movie, but I was simply overtaken with what I heard, beginning with Kirk's line "Oh, so you think you're a good person? By who's standard?" At that second, I knew this was what I was missing those 8 years.

It wasn't till August 7th of 2004, in a motel room that I would again be pressed into the truth that I had encountered months before.

My wife and I occasionally take a weekend "R&R" at the local Holiday Inn Express here in town. It is our "Arizona" trip; a way to mentally revisit our honeymoon in Phoenix almost ten years ago. We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express there. The first time I sprung it on her, I told her I was "Taking her to Arizona". Of course, she thought I was nuts. But when she saw what was going on, she understood.

This trip (August of 2004) I was about to find out "what was going on" in the spiritual sense.

I had brought my Bible and was drawn to 1 Timothy chapter 1. I read the following:

"1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ according to the command of God our Savior, and of the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope,
2 to Timothy, my own son in the faith. Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
3 Even as I begged you to remain at Ephesus, when I was going to Macedonia, that you might charge some that they teach no other doctrine,
4 nor to give heed to fables and endless genealogies (which provide doubts rather than a stewardship of God in faith).
5 But the end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned,
6 from which some, having swerved, have turned aside to foolish talking,
7 desiring to be teachers of the law, neither understanding what they say nor that which they affirm.
8 But we know that the law is good if a man uses it lawfully,
9 knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous one, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,
10 for fornicators, for homosexuals, for slave-traders, for liars, for perjurers, and anything else that is contrary to sound doctrine,
11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust."

This somehow hit me as significant. I couldn't shake it. I embraced it! It was the part about the law being good if it is used lawfully...and the context tells us it is for sinners.

All the sudden, James made sense when it talks about "looking into the mirror". Psalm 19 made sense when it talks about the law, saying it can "convert the soul".

The lights had come on. I was starting to get it! I meditated on this for a while, then decided to spend time with my wife and see if there was something decent on T.V...

I noticed a program with two guys on there who were talking about evangelism. They were talking about the very subject I had just been reading about! Turns out it was the Way of the Master Episode titled "The Motive of the Sinner". At this point, I realized that the Lord was helping me understand how to do the very thing I had struggled with for so many years.

The law of God was given to us to show us how we fall short of God's Standard. It is the definition of what "good" is. It is an absolute standard. It is unchanging and unmoving. For the proud, it shows the sinner that their pride is misplaced. For those whom God has not already humbled, it breaks their pride, shuts their mouth and prepares the way for the Gospel.

I read on one blog that those of us who follow this method "use the law to convince people they are sinners". No, that's not entirely accurate. We present the law and the Holy Spirit uses it to convict the sinner that they are indeed sinful. The former would seem to imply that we use the law to manipulate. That isn't the case. God uses the law to convict. That's what He gave the law for in the first place! Even Paul said he wouldn't have known he was a sinner unless he heard "Thou shalt not kill". And, as we know, he was a Christian killer before his conversion.

I've heard, "Hey, just love 'em to Christ". The problem is, without repentance there is no salvation. And trying to "love them to Christ" bypasses the law, which God gave to convict sinners. Now, does that mean we are just cold automatons, presenting facts? Of course not! But we still have to give them the biblical facts so they can get a grasp on their true condition.

The most recent thing I've heard is "I believe in doing it like it was done with the Ethiopian eunuch". That's where you wait for God to show you someone whom "God has prepared".

Friends, God prepares people for the Gospel by the use of the law. We don't know what the Ethiopian eunuch had gone through, or what God had specifically done. All we know is that he wanted help understanding the scriptures. We don't know if someone had earlier shared the law with him. All we know is that Peter was there for the harvest! His heart had been humbled and Peter was there as the link in the chain God used to bring him to Christ!

Our job, more often than not, is not to wait until there is someone to "harvest", but rather to plant seeds. Law to the proud, grace to the humble. For those who would say "Yes, I think I'm a good person!", we present the Gospel to help them understand that, compared to God's standard, they are not good. And yes, we occasionally run across those who say "I know I'm a sinner, I just don't know what to do about it!". To those, we present the Gospel. The message of repentance and faith. Those who know they have broken God's law are ready for the cure.

It's what Jesus did on a regular basis. Law to the proud, grace to the humble. He didn't just look for people who were ready to be harvested.

And what of Paul who said "I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase", in 1 Corinthians 3.

We plant seeds. Just like in the parable of the sower, we plant seeds. We don't look for a tomato to be picked, although once in a while we may run into one. We plant seeds. And the wonderful thing with planting seeds is you never know who is the fertile soil. It could be the person you are talking to, it may be the person next to that person who is there listening. It may be the person on that blog thread you are trying to help see the truth, or it may be someone else four months from now who reads it. I've seen this work. You never know who it is.

So, I would encourage you to keep it up. Stay in the race. Don't give up but rather keep presenting the Gospel the way Jesus did.

1 comment:

Greg Ryan said...

Great post, I am sooo new to this blogging thing, but I find myself coming back to your site almost daily.

The road to destruction is wide... there are so many traveling on the wrong road and it is our job as believers to introduce them to Jesus.

You must use the law to start the spiritual conversation. Using the law is the only way to "wake them up" to the fact they are even on the wrong road.

I have used the Commandments to "shut the mouth of the proud." It really does work and it builds your faith as you use it.

People are not saved every time, but like you said some plant, some water... but they get the word of God and it will not come back void.