Category Archives: Evangelism

Everything Begins with God—Including Evangelism

Code: B180115

In the beginning God . . . (Genesis 1:1).

God’s own story of redemption begins with Himself. And that’s where we should begin when preaching the gospel.

That’s not to say an exhaustive discourse on the character and nature of God, or a full-orbed investigation of His infinite attributes, is a prerequisite to understanding and believing the gospel. Even our Spirit-illuminated minds cannot fathom God in His fullness; how much can we expect the mind still darkened by sin to comprehend?

However, we cannot accurately present the gospel without first dispelling the false and idolatrous ideas about God that dominate the world. People today blithely fashion a god out of nothing more than their sentimentality and spiritual preferences. But that popular exercise is as futile as trying to rewrite the law of gravity, or wish it away altogether. God is eternal (Isaiah 57:15) and unchanging (Malachi 3:6), and demands our reverence on His terms, not ours.

God presents and defines Himself in Scripture as the true and living God. He says, “I am the Lord and there is no other; besides Me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5). Furthermore, God’s Word reveals that the one true God eternally exists as three distinct Persons.

Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity is impossible to fathom, but John MacArthur points out that Scripture is both clear and nonnegotiable on this subject:

Though the fullness of the Trinity is far beyond human comprehension, it is unquestionably how God has revealed Himself in Scripture—as one God eternally existing in three Persons. . . .

The Scriptures are clear that these three Persons together are one and only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). John 10:30 and 33 explain that the Father and the Son are one. First Corinthians 3:16 shows that the Father and the Spirit are one. Romans 8:9 makes clear that the Son and the Spirit are one. And John 14:1618, and 23 demonstrate that the Father, Son, and Spirit are one. . . . In other words, the Bible makes it clear that God is one God (not three), but that the one God is a Trinity of Persons. [1]

God must be presented as triune if He is to be proclaimed faithfully. Additionally, the Trinity takes on great importance in the realm of evangelism because all three Persons play distinct roles in the salvation of sinners. The Father elects (Ephesians 1:3–6); the Son redeems (Ephesians 1:7–12); and the Holy Spirit convicts (John 16:8), regenerates (Titus 3:5), and indwells believers (Ephesians 1:13–14).

Creator and Judge

The Bible introduces the triune God as the Creator of all things, including mankind (Genesis 1). As such, He rightfully claims ownership of His creation (Psalm 50:10–12) and demands worship from us, His creatures (Exodus 20:2–5Matthew 4:10).

But fallen humanity rebelliously refuses to worship the Creator. The open communion that should exist between God and man is now blocked by a wall of divine hostility (Psalm 5:5). God’s just wrath toward sinners may be an unsavory subject for modern sensibilities, but it’s a necessary truth to awaken the spiritual complacency of our age.

While the character and nature of God is an inexhaustible subject, the evangelist must labor to instill some sense of God’s supremacy and sovereignty in the hearts of sinners. He must explain why they should tremble at the thought of their future day in God’s courtroom (Hebrews 9:27)! John MacArthur laments the modern evangelistic trends that do just the opposite:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). Much of contemporary evangelism aims to arouse anything but fear of God in the mind of sinners. For example, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” is the opening line of the typical evangelistic appeal today. This kind of evangelism is far from the image of a God who must be feared. The remedy for such thinking is the biblical truth of God’s holiness. [2]

Holy

Scripture ascribes its strongest superlative when it refers to God as “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3Revelation 4:8).  Paul Washer points out that God’s holiness “is not merely one attribute among many but is the very context in which all other divine attributes must be defined and understood.” [3] Our evangelistic emphasis on God’s holiness is not meant to dispense with His other attributes such as love, mercy, and grace. Rather, His other attributes find their most profound meaning within the context of God’s holiness.

The word “holy” is translated from the Hebrew qadosh and refers to the otherness of God. As Creator, He transcends His creation and is utterly distinct from all that He has made. Regardless of size or splendor, nothing in creation even remotely approaches the perfections of God.

Why is it so critical to explain that the Creator of the universe is holy? Because we, in our sinful state, are the antithesis of everything He is. There is no greater dichotomy demonstrating our greatest need than the juxtaposition between a holy God and sinful men. John MacArthur points out the dire implications of that infinite gulf:

God is utterly holy, and His law therefore demands perfect holiness: “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy (Leviticus 11:44–45). . . . Even the gospel requires His holiness: “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). “Without [holiness] no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14, NKJV). Because He is holy, God hates sin. [4]

Putting God in His Place

When believers think about God in terms of the gospel, we usually emphasize His love and mercy. And while those are vital attributes woven throughout the gospel, we must not make the mistake of neglecting His triune nature, His sovereignty over creation, and His holiness. Doing so frequently results in the proclamation of a man-centered gospel—one that portrays God as little more than a hero swooping in at the last minute to save the day.

The truth is that sinners stand in God’s crosshairs. Sinners are God’s creation and it is His law they have violated. God is the Savior only because He is the One from whom sinners need to be saved, for “He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:7).

When we put God at the center of the gospel, we gain a clear perspective on the offense of man’s sin and the depth of his guilt. And that’s where we’ll pick it up next time.

 


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The Dangers of an Oversimplified Gospel

Code: B180110

What needs to be conveyed to unbelievers in order that they might understand and embrace salvation?

Many of the modern trends in evangelism have tended to take a minimalist approach to the question. Unfortunately, the legitimate desire to express the heart of the gospel clearly has given way to a less wholesome endeavor. It is a campaign to distill the essentials of the message to the barest possible terms.

The glorious gospel of Christ—that which Paul called “the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16)—includes all the truth about Christ. But American evangelicalism tends to regard the gospel as a “plan of salvation.” We have reduced the message to a list of facts stated in the fewest possible words—and getting fewer all the time: “Six Steps to Peace with God”; “Five Things God Wants You to Know”; “Four Spiritual Laws”; “Three Truths You Can’t Live Without”; “Two Ways to Live”; or “One Way to Heaven.” (This is not a critique of these specific presentations, but is merely an observation that we seem eager to produce and use “plans of salvation” that enumerate and consolidate the gospel message.)

Another trend, equally dangerous, is to reduce evangelism to a memorized script. Often, evangelism training consists of having Christians memorize a series of questions, anticipating that each question will fall into one of a few categories that has a preplanned response.

But the gospel is not a message that can be capsulated, abridged, shrink-wrapped, and then offered as a generic remedy for every kind of sinner. Ignorant sinners need to be instructed about who God is and why He has the right to demand their obedience. Self-righteous sinners need to have their sin exposed by the demands of God’s law. Careless sinners need to be confronted with the reality of God’s impending judgment. Fearful sinners need to hear that God in His mercy has provided a way of deliverance. All sinners must understand how utterly holy God is. They must comprehend the basic truths of Christ’s sacrificial death and the triumph of His resurrection. They need to be confronted with God’s demand that they turn from their sin to embrace Christ as Lord and Savior.

Furthermore, in all the instances where Jesus and the apostles evangelized—whether they were ministering to individuals or crowds—there are no two incidents where they presented the message in precisely the same terminology. They knew that salvation is a sovereign work of God. Their role was to preach truth; the Holy Spirit would apply it individually to the hearts of His elect.

The form of the message will vary in each case. But the content must always drive home the reality of God’s holiness and the sinner’s helpless condition. Then it points sinners to Christ as a sovereign but merciful Lord who has purchased full atonement for all who will turn to Him in faith.

Christians today are often cautioned about the danger of saying too much to the lost. Certain spiritual issues are labeled taboo when speaking to the unconverted: God’s law, Christ’s lordship, repentance, surrender, obedience, judgment, and hell. Such things are not to be mentioned, lest we “add something to the offer of God’s free gift.”

Worse still, there are some who take this reductionist evangelism to its furthest extreme. Wrongly applying the Reformed doctrine of sola fide (faith alone), they make faith the only permissible topic when speaking to non-Christians about their duty before God. Then they render faith utterly meaningless by stripping it of everything but its notional aspects. This, some believe, preserves the purity of the gospel. But what it has actually done is undercut the power of the message of salvation.

It has also populated the church with false converts whose faith is counterfeit and whose hope hangs on a bogus promise. Numbly saying they “accept Christ as Savior,” they brazenly reject His rightful claim as Lord. Paying Him glib lip service, they utterly scorn Him with their hearts (Mark 7:6). Casually affirming Him with their mouths, they deliberately deny Him with their deeds (Titus 1:16). Addressing Him superficially as “Lord, Lord,” they stubbornly decline to do His bidding (Luke 6:46). Such people fit the tragic description of the “many” in Matthew 7:22–23 who will one day be stunned to hear Him say, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”

If there is no simple description for an evangelistic conversation, then what should the evangelist say when proclaiming the gospel? What are the points we need to make clear if we are to articulate the gospel as precisely as possible? In the days ahead we’re going to lay out the basic, yet fundamental, building blocks for faithfully communicating the way of salvation to a sinner: the holiness of God, the depravity of man, the work of Christ, and God’s demands upon the sinner. These are truths we need to embrace as Christ’s people and master as His witnesses.

(Adapted from The John MacArthur Pastor’s Library: Evangelism.)


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TMS: The Perfect Model of Ministry

Matthew chapter 13 displays two key principles we can learn from the perfect model of ministry, who is Jesus Christ himself. He loves the lost, but never caters to their unbelief. He preaches the truth, but knows people will have different responses.

Love the lost

If you are modeling your ministry after Jesus, you truly love the lost. I don’t think there is any greater lesson that you can learn from the example that Jesus displays in Matthew chapter 13. Let’s begin by setting the context.

The final verses of Matthew chapter four introduce the ministry of Jesus in Galilee. Here we’re told that He was going throughout the land teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every kind of disease. There has never been a person that walked this earth that has had a greater love for people than Jesus Christ.The news about Him spread throughout Syria and the people brought to Him all who were ill and He healed them.

His popularity spread. Why? Because He was really helping people. He cured every sick person brought to Him, no matter the severity of their affliction. Can you imagine the press? Can you imagine the number of people crowding in around Him seeking attention? And yet, He continued to give Himself away. He continued to go to the synagogues, continued to minister, continued to serve, continued to do miracles and continued to preach the gospel of the kingdom. That’s a glorious picture of the sacrificial love that Jesus has for the lost.

There has never been a person that walked this earth that has had a greater love for people than Jesus Christ. If you are going to be one of His disciples, you need to begin to manifest that same kind of love. You are going to have to have that same kind of a sacrificial servant’s heart and concern for lost people that Jesus had.

Don’t cater to unbelief

By the time you get to Matthew 13 though, you can see there’s a little bit of a change. At this point, Jesus has spent about a year ministering in Galilee. He has clearly articulated the revelation of His person as the Messiah.  He’s also made clear what is required to gain entrance into the kingdom of heaven.  He’s proven Himself by countless miracles of all kinds that the power of God is on display in Him and through Him. The change in His ministry practice occurs when the people continue in their unbelief despite the abundance of revelation they’ve been given.

The people are indifferent.  They’re just looking for more wow moments. They are not considering the reality of the power of God that’s on display, nor the significance of the message that Jesus is proclaiming. So, Jesus begins to speak to the people in parables. He pronounces a woe upon them for not responding to the revelation they were given. He doesn’t cater to their lack of faith by making it easier to understand—He makes it harder.

When the disciples ask Jesus why He speaks in parables, He basically says He won’t cater to the people’s unbelief. The disciples were blessed.  Their eyes saw, and their ears heard. The reason Jesus still taught truths about the kingdom in parables, is because even though He wanted it to be harder for the crowds to understand, He still wanted to teach the disciples and those who truly believed. The basic principle on display here is that God loves the lost. He offers salvation to all who will come to Him.  But He never caters to unbelief.

Yes, when you talk about biblical ministry, there needs to be a heart for the lost. It shares the truth.  It begs people to be reconciled to God.  But it does not make concessions that compromise the integrity of the church to cater to people who are not responding to the revelation that they are being given.

Understand people will respond in different ways

This is a fundamental principle of ministry that will strengthen your heart in the hard days when you wonder if you’re even making a difference. Success in ministry boils down to one thing—Faithfulness.There are four different types of responses to the Ministry of the word of God. The examples come from the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-23

  1. The first type of person you can expect to share the gospel with is like the hard road upon which the gospel message, as a seed, lands on and then is eaten by birds. It has no lasting impact. The next day there isn’t any evidence that it was ever there.
  2. The second kind of soil is the seed that was sown on the rocky places. This is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no firm root. The impact is only temporary. When affliction or persecution arises, he falls away.
  3. The third type of soil is the most difficult on a shepherd’s heart. This is the seed that falls among the thorns. It’s the heaviest, because they’re always with you. These are the people that are in your church because they’ve made a profession of faith.  They never defect, and they respond to an extent to admonishment and to instruction.  They will even affirm when confronted that they agree with it. But they just never really come all the way to saving faith.  There’s always something just a little off in the manifestion of real fruit in their Christian life.
  4. The last type of soil is the one we focus on and rejoice in. It’s the seed that was sown on the good soil. This is the man who hears the word, understands it, and brings forth fruit.

Don’t think that your ministry is useless because the only people you’ve led to Christ have abandoned the faith. You should expect to encounter people like this. There is no difference in the seed. There is no difference in the sower. The difference is in the heart that receives it, and you can’t control that. Success in ministry boils down to one thing—Faithfulness.  That’s it. Faithfulness to do God’s work, God’s way, for God’s glory.

Stop worrying about what the temporal visible results are. Yes, it’s heart breaking. Yes, ministry is going to be characterized by fixing love on people that aren’t going to love you or Christ and they’re going to disappoint you. But, instead of being disappointed, you’re going to have to grieve for them and keep finding a sense of joy and purpose and satisfaction from preaching God’s word.  You were faithful.  God is pleased with you.  Like Jesus who wept over Jerusalem because they wouldn’t receive the offer, you too can weep.  But, just like Jesus, you can be sure the Father is pleased with your faithfulness to preach, to appeal, and to invite them into the kingdom.

Our perfect model of ministry teaches us to love the lost in a sacrificial way, but never cater to their unbelief. We must keep doing the work of God for His glory regardless of how it plays out.

The post The Perfect Model of Ministry appeared first on The Master’s Seminary.

8 Ways to Connect Evangelistically with Non-believing Family Members over the Holiday

Many of us will be hanging out with unbelieving family members this Thanksgiving week, and we’re hoping to be a good Christian witness around them. Maybe these ideas will help you move in that direction:

  1. Before you join your family, pray for God to give you opportunity, boldness, and clarity as a witness. That’s what Paul asked others to pray for him (Eph. 6:18-20, Col. 4:2-4), so follow his lead.
  2. Hand a note of gratitude to a family member. Surprise somebody with a Thanksgiving card, and let them know you’re thankful to God for them. Maybe that gift will open a door for a gospel conversation.
  3. If someone you haven’t seen for some time asks how you’re doing, insert a word about God’s hand in your life. It’s not that hard to say something like, “You know, God’s taken care of us this year through good and bad, and we’re doing well.”
  4. If you’re asked to say the blessing, don’t be afraid to thank God for the salvation He has provided. It’s an honest prayer, and it allows you to briefly share what Christ has done for us.
  5. Avoid unhelpful debates over the dinner table. It’s hard to speak about God’s grace when you’re raising your voice about such things as politics (and even sports, in some cases).
  6. Quietly, one-on-one let your family know that you pray for them. Ask what prayer requests they might have – and see where the conversation goes.
  7. Reach out to family members who are most unlovable. All of our families have them. They sometimes sit by themselves, or they might be obnoxious and loud. In either case, give them your time and attention.
  8. Make a phone call to a family member who’s not present at the family gathering. Take the initiative to engage in this conversation: “I really love you. I just want you to know I’m praying for you and would love to talk more about what Jesus means in my life if you’re open to it.” You never know who might be ready to talk.

What other ways would you add to this list?

Source: 8 Ways to Connect Evangelistically with Non-believing Family Members over the Holiday

CultureWatch: Two Humanities, Two Destinies

I remember some years ago a very liberal Christian attacked me for suggesting that there are actually two classes of humanity: the people of God, and those who are not God’s people. He thought that this was an unloving, judgmental and divisive thing to believe and say.

He believed that we are all one big happy family, and there should be no talk about two humanities, or two destinies, or the saved and the lost, or the righteous and the unrighteous, or sinners and saints. He felt that God was an inclusive God who embraces everyone, and we make things hard on sinners if we speak of two humanities.

Sadly many folks believe this lie, including some very popular Christian leaders of today. One noted writer whose books and films have been adored by countless Christians is William Paul Young. But he is one of those who believe that at the end of the day we are included in God’s love.

He is a universalist in other words, who thinks we all are ultimately saved, whether we like it or not. And the very hell he seeks to deny is where millions of folks will go, including those who believe his false teachings. I have written about his older book The Shack as well as his newest book. See here:

http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/04/11/a-review-of-the-shack-by-william-young-part-one/
http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/04/11/a-review-of-the-shack-by-william-young-part-two/
billmuehlenberg.com/2017/04/20/william-paul-young-heretic-part-one/
billmuehlenberg.com/2017/04/20/william-paul-young-heretic-part-two/

two roads 4Many others have written about him and his damaging views, including James De Young. In addition to his earlier helpful writings about William Paul Young, he has recently penned an article which looks at his long-standing universalism which is well worth reading: burningdowntheshackbook.com/truth-versus-lies/

One sure way to dispel this faulty notion of one humanity which is all happily reconciled to God is to simply read what the Word of God has to say about this. When we do, we find that from Genesis to Revelation there is always talk about two humanities.

We have the saved and the unsaved. The godly and the ungodly. The righteous and the unrighteous. The redeemed and the lost. And this is found in the earliest biblical accounts of man. Just as soon as Adam and Eve fell, God told them about a divided humanity which would be continuous, extending throughout the generations. Genesis 3:15 says:

And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.

Here we have talk about a godly seed or line, and an ungodly seed or line. And the fact that God chooses some people to be his own also demonstrates how we have two main groups of people. The choice of Israel over all other nations is a prime example of this. We find this often discussed in Scripture.

In Exodus 8:22-23 for example we read this: “But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.”

Other texts speak of the crucial division between Israel and non-Israel. Exodus 11:6-7 says, “There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal. Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.”

And we find this in Leviticus 18:3: “You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.” Consider as well Leviticus 20:22-26:

Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations. You must therefore make a distinction between clean and unclean animals and between unclean and clean birds. Do not defile yourselves by any animal or bird or anything that moves along the ground—those that I have set apart as unclean for you. You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

The wisdom literature is of course filled with talk of the two humanities. Let me offer just a few of these passages:

-Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.
-Psalm 11:5 The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.
-Psalm 37:17 for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.
-Psalm 37:37-38 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
a future awaits those who seek peace.
But all sinners will be destroyed;
there will be no future for the wicked.
-Proverbs 3:33 The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous.
-Proverbs 10:3 The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
-Proverbs 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

The prophets too spoke about this. Let me offer just two texts, the first one being Daniel 12:10: “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”

The second is Malachi 3:18:

Then you shall again discern
Between the righteous and the wicked,
Between one who serves God
And one who does not serve Him.

Things remain the same when we get to the New Testament. The gospels often dwell on this. Jesus led the way in emphasising this. As he said in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

And consider Matthew 25:31-46 which speaks about the judgment between sheep and goats. Other gospel texts that can be mentioned include:

-Mark 8:35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
-John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God
-John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

And in John 8:31-47 we read about the dispute concerning whose children Jesus’ opponents are. In verse 39 they say, “Abraham is our father”. But in verse 44 Jesus replies, “you are of your father the devil”. Whom, sure sounds like two different lines there – a godly and an ungodly line.

Jesus and the disciples also spoke about the two humanities in terms of the future resurrection and judgment. As we find in Acts 24:15: “I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.”

Paul too speaks in such terms. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 he writes, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” And in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 he says, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Peter also speaks about the two humanities. For example, 1 Peter 2:10 puts it this way: “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” And this is clearly spelled out in the book of Revelation. Consider Revelation 20:11–15:

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

This is just a small selection of the numerous passages which clearly delineate the two humanities and the two destinies. We are not all one big happy family of God. We are all born sinners, but only those who repent and put their faith in God can claim to be part of his household.

People may squabble over competing sports teams and boast about which side they are on. And folks can claim allegiance to a nation or a philosophy or a lifestyle, over against all the others. But the one thing that really matters is which side you are on when it comes to the two humanities.

That is the most important issue we need to deal with. Moses put it this way: “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Joshua put it this way: “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

Jesus put it this way: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And John put it this way: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12).

Please choose wisely.

[1910 words]

The post Two Humanities, Two Destinies appeared first on CultureWatch.

The Good News for All Time

Jesus. If he isn’t the epitome of good news for all humanity, hope is undoubtedly lost. Thankfully, our hope in the Savior is not misplaced or misguided, as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John record the life, death, and resurrection of the risen King of Kings so we, like those throughout the course of history, would believe in and receive this glorious truth with a childlike faith (Hebrews 11:1).

Good News in the Beginning

God starts this story—though he has no beginning (Revelation 1:8). Since we think in a linear manner, it seems fitting to think about the good news in the context of the first humans. God created man and woman in the hopes that they would dwell with him forever, but their decision to disobey his kind provision led to spiritual and physical death (Genesis 2).

In his great mercy, however, the Lord continued to provide for the man and woman and their offspring. In the course of time, he showed the people how to atone for their recurring sins by way of a sacrifice (see Leviticus 4).

The blood of animals sprinkled on the altar was not enough for complete and total redemption. Accordingly, the son of God willingly laid down his life—once and for all—that we would be restored to God for good. And after tasting death for every man, Jesus was crowned with glory and honor (Hebrews 2:9), an unrivaled glory that will endure for all time.

Good News for Today

The good news started at the beginning of time, when God set in motion a mighty plan to draw all people to him like chicks to a hen (Matthew 23:27). The good news exists today too, in the here and now.

Two verses speak to this, and the first concerns an ongoing process noted in Philippians 2:12: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” What’s Paul alluding to? Holiness. In the words of author Matthew Henry, “The doctrine and example of consistent believers will enlighten others, and direct their way to Christ and holiness.” Holiness is the daily process of becoming more like Jesus (John 3:30). Going after godliness with all our regenerated hearts, in the power of God’s Spirit, is good news for our spiritual growth.

The second passage that alludes to the daily reminder of the good news of God is tucked into Lamentations 3:22-23: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” What a thought, to deeply know a faithful God who dispenses fresh mercy with each new sunrise. Every day begins with good news, a mercy that covers our worst sins and leads us toward confession, forgiveness, and repentance.

Good News for the Future

While we know that tomorrow will be greeted with mercy anew like today, what does the larger picture look like? What does the future look like?

If we backpedal to the resurrection of Jesus the Savior some 2,000 years ago, this translates into a different tomorrow for everyone who witnessed that unbelievable moment in time as the stone was beside the tomb. The twelve disciples for example, once stubborn and timid, were boldly proclaiming that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 5:29-32) to all who would listen to their message.

What does this mean for us as 21st century followers of Jesus? We are called to be ambassadors for Christ: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).


Jesus is the epitome of good news for all humanity, hope for the lost.


Matthew 28 closes with a comforting view for tomorrow and for the future: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Many of us interpret “end of the age” to mean “end of days” or “the end of time.” Regardless of your interpretation, what’s striking about this verse is that Jesus is likely referencing our end. Since he too is fully God, there is no end for him. He will endure forever.

Lastly, the good news reveals that the enemy will be defeated at the end of the age. The thief who comes to “steal and kill and destroy” will meet his well-deserved demise. “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur” (Revelation 20:10).

The future is one of hope, as what was started will surely be finished. “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12: 1-2).

That’s good news.

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Right Thinking in a Church Gone Astray

The Master’s Seminary is pleased to announce the publication of a new book, Right Thinking in a Church Gone Astray.

This volume serves as a sequel to Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong.

The book’s contributors are comprised of TMS professors and/or pastors at Grace Community Church. Here is a list of the chapters included in this volume:

Foreword by John MacArthur

Section 1: The Church and Contemporary Issues

Chapter 1: When the Church Goes Astray: Evangelicalism’s Misguided Quest for Popularity and Prestige (Nathan Busenitz)

Chapter 2: Rock-Star Religion: Countering the Church’s Celebrity Culture (Tom Patton)

Chapter 3: The Crescent and the Cross: Engaging Muslims for the Sake of the Gospel (William D. Barrick)

Chapter 4: When Truth Meets Love: The Church’s Response to Homosexuality (Alex Montoya)

Chapter 5: Is This Jesus Calling? Evaluating a Bestselling Book in Light of Biblical Truth (Jesse Johnson)

Section 2: The Church and Sound Doctrine

Chapter 6: Who’s In Charge of Your Church? Submitting to the Headship of Christ in Everything (Michael Mahoney)

Chapter 7: Nothing But the Truth: Why We Cannot Compromise Our Commitment to Scripture (Abner Chou)

Chapter 8: The Hallmarks of Heresy: Discerning the Difference Between Doctrinal Confusion and False Teaching (Michael Riccardi)

Chapter 9: The Charismatic Question: Are the Miraculous Gifts Still in Operation Today? (Nathan Busenitz)

Chapter 10: Things That Should Not Be Forgotten: Why Church Leaders Should Care about Church History (Nathan Busenitz)

Section 3: The Church and the Great Commission

Chapter 11: To the Ends of the Earth: God’s Global Agenda to Reach the Lost (Irv Busenitz)

Chapter 12: Compassion Without Compromise: Thinking About Social Justice in Light of the Great Commission (Jesse Johnson)

Chapter 13: Fit for the Master’s Use: Proclaiming the Gospel from a Platform of Personal Piety (Carl Hargrove)

Chapter 14: Global Risk Assessment: Threatening Trends Within Evangelical Missions (Mark Tatlock)

Chapter 15: To the Praise of His Glory: A Call to Remember the Church’s Ultimate Priority (James Mook)

The post Right Thinking in a Church Gone Astray appeared first on The Master’s Seminary.

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The Unchanging Gospel

1 Corinthians 15:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:1-4

Code: B170227

John MacArthur

[Note from the Editor: This week’s blog posts are adapted from John MacArthur’s newest book The Gospel According to Paul, and also correlate with our current radio series. Click here to learn more about the book, or here to listen to the radio broadcast.]

There is only one gospel. That theme reverberates throughout the writings of the apostle Paul—literature that makes up almost half of the entire New Testament. While he emphasizes different aspects of the gospel in various passages [The Gospel According to Paul examines several other prominent passages: Romans 3:9–26, 2 Corinthians 5:18–21, Ephesians 2:1–10, Titus 2:11–14], they are all consistent and work together for a full-orbed understanding of the doctrine of salvation.

Consistency and Integrity

Anyone who suggests that Paul introduced an altered or embellished version of the apostolic message would have to contradict every point Paul ever made about the singularity of the true gospel. Although he expounded the gospel far more thoroughly and painstakingly than any other New Testament writer, nothing Paul ever preached or wrote was in any way a departure from what Christ or His apostles had been teaching from the start. Paul’s gospel was exactly the same message Christ proclaimed and commissioned the twelve to take into all the world. There is only one gospel, and it is the same for Jews and Gentiles alike.

It was the false teachers, not Paul, who claimed that God had appointed them to polish or rewrite the gospel. Paul flatly repudiated the notion that the message Christ sent His disciples to preach was subject to revision (2 Corinthians 11).

Paul made it clear that the surest way to twist Scripture to one’s own destruction is by altering the gospel—or even by passively tolerating those who preach a modified gospel. He strictly cautioned readers to beware “if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted” (2 Corinthians 11:4). He said alternative gospels are rooted in the same brand of deception the serpent used to deceive Eve (2 Corinthians 11:3).

And while the one, true gospel is inexhaustible in its breadth and depth, it is at the same time clear enough to be expressed in simple terms through historical events and theological principles.

Core Elements

For anyone familiar with Paul’s writings, one of the first texts that will come to mind as a succinct summary of the gospel is 1 Corinthians 15:1–5. Paul himself identifies this passage as a digest of essential gospel truths.

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared.

Verse 3 would be better translated, “I conveyed to you the principal matters.” That’s the true sense of what he is telling them. What Paul clearly has in mind here are the elements of gospel truth that come first in order of importance. He goes on to give an abbreviated outline of historical facts in chronological order. He names four events that constitute the key climactic events of the whole gospel narrative: the crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and subsequent appearances of the risen Christ.

This is significant for several reasons. First, it is a reminder that the gospel is grounded in actual history. The Christian faith is not a theory or a speculation. It is not mystical, as if based on someone’s dream or imagination. It is not an abstract philosophy or an idealistic worldview. Much less is it merely a list of sterile doctrines that have been relegated to a formal statement of faith. The gospel of Jesus Christ is divinely revealed truth established in the meticulous historical fulfillment of several Old Testament prophecies, documented by mountains of irrefutable evidence, confirmed by a series of public events that no mere mortal could possibly have engineered, and corroborated by an abundance of eyewitness testimony.

On the other hand, by listing facts of history as matters of primary importance, Paul is by no means dismissing or even minimizing the doctrinal content of the gospel message. Nor is he suggesting that the Christian faith rests on bare historical facts and eyewitness testimony alone. Twice in this short passage Paul reminds us that these events happened “according to the Scriptures.” That, of course, is the true ground and foundation of saving faith. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). It’s not “faith” merely to believe that these events occurred. True saving faith will also embrace the biblical meaning of sin, atonement, divine grace, and other elements of gospel truth—the doctrines that explain why the historical facts are so significant.

Indeed, loaded into the simple statement “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” is everything Scripture teaches about the penalty of sin, the principle of substitutionary atonement, and the sinless perfection that qualified Christ to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In other words, what Paul says here in very few words has significant ramifications for hamartiology (the doctrine of sin), soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), and Christology (the doctrines of the person and work of Christ). So his short list of historical facts in 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 is laden with far-reaching doctrinal implications.

The Problem in Corinth

Context is crucial. Paul wrote this chapter to deal with a doctrinal error, not as a dispute about the facts of history. The Corinthians already believed in Christ’s death and resurrection. What they questioned was the future bodily resurrection of believers who die. So Paul was writing to defend that point of doctrine. He does so by outlining the gospel message with a list of historical events that no one in the Corinthian assembly of believers ever would have questioned. “So we preach and so you believed,” he says in 1 Corinthians 15:11 (emphasis added).

His review of commonly believed gospel facts in verses 1–5 was therefore merely a prelude to the central point of the chapter. Paul states his main point plainly in verses 16–17: “If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” Conversely, if Christ was raised from the dead, then there’s no reason to be skeptical about the future bodily resurrection of the saints. “If Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:12). The whole of chapter 15 is an exposition of that simple argument.

Four Historic Events

What concerns us here, however, is the brief gospel outline Paul gives in verses 3–5. He cites four events from history to construct a firm skeletal framework for the weighty doctrinal substance and spiritual significance of the gospel message. By naming these four historical facts rather than stressing the doctrine, Paul is not suggesting that the gospel’s doctrinal content is irrelevant or inconsequential. Paul would never indulge in that kind of reductionism. (The whole book of Galatians proves how strongly he believed in doctrinal soundness, especially in the matter of gospel preaching.) Here he is merely summarizing and outlining—not truncating—the message. By repeatedly using the phrase “according to the Scriptures,” he makes it clear that a right understanding of and true belief in these four events necessarily entails a proper view of the gospel’s doctrinal implications.

Furthermore, none of this would have been new to the Corinthians. Paul founded that church and pastored it for more than eighteen months before his ministry took him elsewhere (Acts 18:11,18). The Corinthians had received sufficient teaching from Paul so they already knew quite well the crucial doctrinal implications of the statement “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” That, of course, is the first point of the outline Paul constructs.

In the days ahead we’ll examine four events that frame the pivotal doctrine of Christ’s atonement, and how all the other core gospel elements flow out it.

 

(Adapted from The Gospel According to Paul.)

Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170227
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Unpopular the Movie is devastating in a good way, as the Gospel always is (Video)

Red Grace media has published Unpopular The Movie, and it’s wonderful. This half hour movie is Christ-centric, accurate, clear, and presents the Gospel in a devastatingly biblical way. When you hear/read the Gospel, unvarnished and with open ears and open eyes, it singes the heart and devastates the soul. It is incendiary. Even as a long-saved person, it will try your emotions, and bring you low. We ALL need The Gospel.

Here, Emilio Ramos, Dr James White, and Paul Washer quietly discuss The Gospel. The background music is unobtrusive, the setting is thoughtful, and the presentation of the Gospel is accurate and beautiful. The movie is as much for the saints as it is an evangelism tool for the unsaved. Here is Red Grace Media’s synopsis:Unpopular The Movie is a Evangelism resource for the church. Unpopular is a gospel presentation by Emilio Ramos, Dr James White of Aomin.org, and Paul Washer from Heart Cry Missionary Society. Unpopular is meant to serve as a tool to evangelize non-Christians with the gospel of Jesus Christ. To stay up to date visit http://www.unpopularthemovie.com

Mr Ramos said,

We live in a culture that glorifies sin. That trivializes sin, that makes sin less heinous than it is. It is very deceptive to look at sin in a way that makes sense to us. If we see ourselves in the way that the culture tells us to see ourselves, then man can remedy his condition through technique. But if we see ourselves the way the Bible tells us we really are, then the only remedy for our sin is the work of the Savior.

This is good. Watch it!

Sin, repentance, the cross…are the most upsetting and controversial doctrines on the entire earth. They are presented here, along with God’s love and mercy.

Listen and watch for yourself. We all need the Gospel, all the time. Let its truth and the majesty of a holy and righteous God who accepts sinners into His family through His slain and resurrected Son, Jesus. Then share.

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Further Reading

The Gospel According to Jesus, by John MacArthur

Source: Unpopular the Movie is devastating in a good way, as the Gospel always is

When Christians Act Like Mormons

Jordan Standridge shares his concern that in their approach to evangelism, many evangelicals actually look more like Joseph Smith than Jesus. In this piece over at The Cripplegate, Standridge lays out three areas in particular where Christians are tempted to behave like Mormons. He writes:

The other day I was getting ready to take the kids to our park when there was a knock on the door. Thinking it was a present from Amazon, I looked out only to find an even greater present: three Mormon missionaries. I’m sure you’ve experienced this. A long time goes by before your last visit and you start getting excited about the next time Mormons come knocking at your door. Every time I see Mormons, I get this sudden urge to talk to them. And every time I walk away discouraged and saddened for how blinding their religion is. And the cycle continues. Over the last few years, I’ve had many interactions with Mormon “elders.”

Mormons are usually very sweet people. They genuinely believe their religion, and they do believe that what they teach is the truth. They believe their religion is best and that you will be happiest if you follow it. But what is fascinating is the training that they receive before coming to your door. They are taught to focus on the positives. They are all about image and the way they present themselves. They are, in fact, salesmen, and they sell their product through smiles and offering “hope.” Over the last couple of years, I’ve asked Mormons what they are selling. I say, “Ok, you guys have come all the way to my house and to my door, what do you guys want me to do?” “What are you guys offering?” and whether it was Virginia, California or a random Chick-Fil-A in Georgia, they all said, “Happiness in this life and hope for the next!”

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See our Research Paper on Mormonism

Taking Back Christianese #5: “Just Ask Jesus into Your Heart”

In this way, as noted above, this phrase can actually backfire on itself.  While intended to prevent false conversions, it can (if misused) actually lead to false conversions.  People can think they are saved because they “asked Jesus into their heart” with no awareness of how to evaluate their own spiritual condition.

Some of us grew up in churches where it seemed every Sunday included an altar call. Congregants were invited to walk the aisle and to make a “decision” for Christ.

During these occasions, very specific language would be used to explain how a person becomes a Christian.  “Just ask Jesus into your heart,” was the common refrain, usually followed by an appeal to Rev 3:2, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him.”

Thus, we come to the next installment in the “Taking Back Christianese” series.  Our purpose here is to evaluate the phrase, “Just ask Jesus into your heart.”  Like most of the phrases in this series, it can have both positive and negative aspects, depending on how it is used.

Why Do People Use This Phrase?

Despite the association with modern day revival-style churches, this phrase actually has a long pedigree, even in Reformed circles.  As some have pointed out, even certain Puritans used language that was similar.

And the reason for the usage of this phrase is not hard to find.  Concerned about the prevalence of false conversions, many pastors were keen to emphasize that salvation is not something attained just by attending church or being born into a Christian home.  Salvation is personal and individual.  Each sinner has to respond to Christ for themselves.

There is a bit of irony however to this motivation.  Although this phrase might have been used to prevent false conversions, its misuse can, in fact, heighten the problem of false conversions.  More on this below.

What is Correct or Helpful about This Phrase?

No doubt the Puritans embraced a version of this phrase precisely because it emphasized the personal, heartfelt response that needed to be true of every converted individual.  The Gospel has both corporate and individual aspects to it, and the latter cannot be forgotten.

Indeed, this is plainly laid out in Scripture.  Familial and corporate ties are not enough to be saved, “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).

Thus, this phrase rightly reminds us that the Gospel requires a response from individuals.  It is not something that can be assumed or taken for granted.  Christ must be believed upon and embraced.

In this way, this phrase is a very helpful reminder of the importance of conversion. And this reminder is seriously needed in Reformed circles today. We talk about a lot of things as Reformed believers–justification, sanctification, adoption.

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