Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"Too Simple, Way Too Simple"

Lately the Lord has been molding circumstances to help me understand how many just don't get it. And, it's been a very confirming time, at least for me.

The online world can be a tricky one. Blogging has its own traps which exist, all too often hidden, in comment threads. What should be very simple turns out, sometimes, to be very complex. Take sharing the Gospel, for example. As the Emergent Apostasy spreads like cancer along with Purpose Driven and other anti-Biblical movements, everything gets more and more "complex". We start having "conversations". Emergent has their own brand of conversation. . .the kind that goes nowhere. After all, it's not about the destination but the journey. As a matter of fact, in Emergent, humility is to be "seeking truth" and the height of arrogance is to say you have found it! One must ask, then why waste your time seeking what you are not allowed to find? But such a question, I think, would be lost on many emergent types I've encountered.

So, what of us who have been charged with the Gospel?

The strategy in such online conversations is very simple. Actually, there is no real strategy -- All you have to do is repeat the message of the Gospel. And remember, you aren't necessarily presenting it to the people you are conversing with. Your real audience may be the person who reads the thread next month or even next year. The Gospel will work on its own. The power of the Gospel is not in the person who is presenting it nor is it in the medium. It is the message itself, which is the biblical message of sin, repentance and faith.

I've seen this work. A number of years ago, I frequented a web site that allows artwork to be submitted. The art I did contained scriptural content. Of course, most of the year or more that I spent there was spent debating with atheists. Seems that they could put up with anything as long as it wasn't something from the Bible. There were lots of discussions about science and the Bible among other things. I developed deeper roots there. It was a great time of maturation as far as being able to defend my faith against the attacks of atheism. It really is a bankrupt religion. And atheism is a religion that has little or nothing to do with science. I learned that over and over again during my time there.

During that time though, I learned a more valuable lesson; the audience you are talking to may (most likely) not be the audience you reach. So, this atheist by the name of "Ed" asks some question, not really wanting an answer. You know it, or at least you perceive it that way. You can generally tell it although sometimes it's hard to decipher intent by reading the question on your screen.

Anyway, you answer Ed's question and Ed just wants to go on and on. It doesn't matter. You are presenting the truth, and you never know who will end up seeing it!

In one particular thread, I remember having a protracted discussion with some guy who said he had just gotten his Ph.D in Astronomy. Who knows? Maybe. He didn't like me submitting artwork that quoted Job 38:31 where God asked Job "Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, or loose the cords of Orion?". This is a verse which we now know accurately refers to the bound and unbound status of those two constellations and points to the inspiration and scientific accuracy of the Scriptures! Well the guy I was having this discussion with ended up at odds with NASA, which bears up what the Scriptures accurately reported so very long ago. This guy just couldn't deal with it! He wanted to quibble over "how loosely bound" the constellation Orion is. The issue wasn't "how loosely bound" it may or may not be. The fact is, it is bound! He could not dispute that. But he couldn't accept the implications either.

But in the middle of all this, (and there were tons of hecklers there), here comes this one guy who left a few comments. His comment was a simple observation: "Hey, if Tim is right, what he's saying makes a whole lot of sense!" While it's not about me being right, it is about the Scriptures, and they are right!

And I was encouraged that, after all the "discussion", there was someone there who may well have finally "got it". And of course, I moved my focus to him, to affirm his observation. The guy I had been discussing things with? He gave up. But he was the tool that God used to get the message out that He wanted this other guy to hear. And He was glorified, even if it looked like I got nowhere and even if others thought I looked foolish.

So, the people you "think" you're talking to may well not be the ones the Lord has listening to you. And I have never forgotten that.

More recently, I recall one discussion in which the Gospel was clearly presented. The response I got was "Too Simple, Way Too Simple". Well, I take pride in having those words aimed at me. It is a badge of honor. If I'm in a group of religious people and don't hear that, I have to wonder if I'm messing things up!

See, as a matter of fact, the Gospel is simple. And it is the utter simplicity of the Gospel that will keep many people out of the Kingdom. Jesus said that the gate is narrow and few will find it.

What is the message of the Gospel? Man has fallen. We are all dead in sin. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot pay the debt we owe to God. We need someone to save us, but someone has to pay for our sin. No man can, because sin requires the death penalty but God sent His Son, Who lived a sinless life so He could die for us, bearing the penalty he didn't owe. God requires that we repent and trust in the One who can save us.

Simple? Way too simple? Yes. For those who will perish. It is simple. Yet it is difficult. It is difficult because it demands death to self. It demands admitting we can do nothing on our own. It demands picking up a cross and following Jesus by obeying Him and His will as revealed in his Word.

That is the message. Human pride can't deal with it. And the more "sophisticated" they get, the harder it is for them to apprehend the gospel and the more hardened against the truth they become.

So when you are out there and trying to get the Gospel across to someone who simply refuses to hear, remember your audience is likely not the person you had originally thought it was. It may be a person or group of people who haven't even seen or heard what you've been saying....yet.

I play trumpet and other brass wind instruments. I also enjoy doing brass wind repair work. It's one of a couple of side businesses that I operate. It's a great way to meet people and share the Gospel, and God has been faithful. But I recall there being a discussion on religion in general and Christianity in specific on this one trumpet oriented forum. I didn't spend a lot of time in that thread but I tried to be cogent and faithful to laying the gospel message out.

You know what? Months after that discussion, I received a private message from a person who saw that message thread, and he thanked me! He thanked me because he had been exposed to the Gospel! Contrary to what I may have been thinking when I posted what I posted, was the time I spent presenting the gospel wasted because it "didn't get results" on my schedule? No! No way! We don't work on our schedule, but God's!

I still hear some say that evangelism on websites doesn't work. There is no reason to think that because the message is the message is the message. It doesn't matter if it is read directly from the Bible, said out loud, written on paper, represented on a computer screen or scratched in mud. The power is in the message, not the medium!

Paul said in Romans 1:16 that "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe, first for the Jew, then for the Greek". See it? What is the power of God unto salvation? The messenger? The medium? No! The "power of God unto salvation..." is the GOSPEL!

So, publish it! When someone somewhere is even feigning interest in the things of God, publish the Gospel! Don't expect that person to respond. We have no idea who God will call to repentance through the Gospel message you leave!

The statement that evangelism on a web page doesn't work is a lie straight from Hell. It's a lie because it places the power of the message away from God's Truth onto the method, the medium or the person. Again, the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe!

On the back of my car I have a sign. It's a simple thing, actually, it's a two line message I printed in large type. I folded it over so it's a little larger than the size of a bumper sticker and taped it to the inside of the rear window of my hatchback. The two line message is this:

"Think you're a good person?"
"Visit www.needgod.com"

Two things I've noticed. First, it makes me more careful about how I drive. After all, they connect my conduct with that message.

Secondly, I've noticed more than one person walk by my car in a parking lot and they stand and look directly at that message, kind of like how I do when I'm trying to memorize something. But something is going on. And who knows that when they get a chance, they go to that website and get the gospel. On another occasion, I and another person were at a local McDonald's. We were doing Bible study and I was also working on evangelism materials with my laptop. A bus of school kids came in. Out of nowhere, the coach asked me if "that red Honda out there with the sign in the back" was mine. We were able to share the Gospel with him and the students!

A waste of time? No way! Even if it were, I'd much rather hear God say "Tim, I wish you wouldn't have tried so hard to get the Gospel out...you really did too much" than "Tim, while you were on Earth, you knew people were dying and going to hell. I gave you so many resources to use to get the message out. Why did you squander the resources I entrusted you with?"

Which would you rather hear?

The message is simple. In fact, Jesus said you must come to Him as a child. Not as a theologian. Not as a "Wise" person. Not as a good philosopher. But as a child. Why? Because it is a simple message meant for those who can accept God on His terms.

Some years ago I recall hearing John MacArthur discuss how he gets to share the gospel on TV so much. This wasn't about him being on Larry King Live, as he often is now, but rather about the times he'd be on TV being asked questions by someone on the street with a microphone. If I recall correctly, he said "I just say what I have to say and they change the questions to fit my answers!". That would be simple enough, as the interviewer had his or her back to the camera. See? He was publishing the message.

So broadcast the simplicity of the Gospel. And when the trolls and hecklers come, just keep proclaiming it because at the end of the day, only God knows who the real audience is. To us, it isn't about winning the immediate argument, it's about publishing the gospel for those who will later read it and respond. And if you simply get the gospel out, the battle is won. Simple? Absolutely. And sometimes it seems "way too simple." But it's the way God planned it. Simple message, simple method.

Only He knows who wears the mark "Elect". And the Elect ones will see and hear it as God wills.


approvedworkman said...

"As a matter of fact, in Emergent, humility is to be "seeking truth" and the height of arrogance is to say you have found it! One must ask, then why waste your time seeking what you are not allowed to find?"

I also wonder how they know that the "fundies" do not proclaim truth, for the same reason you state.

It is simple, too simple. Good post.

john frerich said...

Good post. My wife and I were having a conversation driving home the other day centering on the many proposed legislations to control the behavior of people. We were discussing the political parties and she said she wasn't sure any of the proposals would work or be heeded. I told her that is the beauty of the Gospel: you don't change society by passing laws guiding people's conduct, you change society by changing people through the power of the Gospel to radically transform them, resulting in a changed society. This is where the Emergents and Warren, et all, just don't get it or, worse, don't believe in the power of the Gospel.
Such a great revelation of the Holy Spirit in that conversation!

Coram Deo said...

It must be a really neat trick that you pull to be simultaneously "Too Simple" and yet be "Arrogant".

It would seem that those two descriptors would be mutually exclusive, doesn't it?

Maybe you're "Simply Arrogant"?

Or maybe you're "Arrogantly Simple"?

It just goes to show that when people reject the absolute standard of God Almighty and reject His revealed wisdom as contained uniquely within the Holy Bible they're immediately reduced to absurdity, irrationality and utter foolishness.

Hey! Doesn't the Bible say something about that? *snicker*

beaconlight said...

Great post, Tim. Thanks for the reminder that sometimes the endless back-and-forth comments with a contentious set-in-his-ways commentator can and will often bear fruit in ways we do not foresee. Kind of reminds me how Ray Comfort says he relishes a good heckler, because he will draw people in who otherwise may not have been initially interested.