Posts tagged ‘evangelism’

We Smell Like Something

Scientists, through diligent research, have concluded that our olfactory senses (smell) are the ones most closely linked to our memories. There are many things, such as a the smell of certain foods cooking, that bring back many fond memories from long ago during the Christmas season. Unfortunately, there are also specific odors that are linked to horrible memories and can send people into panic attacks or make them physically ill. Such is the power of olfactory memory.

In the same way, our spiritual lives have memories. Certain songs bring back memories of worship services with my father leading singing, or of times of worship at Sierra Bible Camp. Various Bible verses bring to mind situations in life where they became especially poignant. And spiritual memories can encourage or discourage us in our walk with God. Likewise, the Gospel message has a lasting effect on those who have heard it. You see, no matter what happened at the time, there was either a positive or a negative response to that message. Paul is speaking of such things in his second letter to the church at Corinth.

14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:14-17 KJV))

In later years, we can look back with gratitude on a lesson we heard that “sealed the deal” for us and elicited a response to the Gospel. Many, with deep regret, will look back at the judgment, and perhaps for all eternity, on squandered chances to respond with obedience and faith. Whenever the Gospel message is preached, due to the power of the “living and active” Word of God (Hebrew 2:14), we are enabled to respond, and do so. To ignore the message or brush it off, is to reject the message. We are confronted with decisions of eternal consequence, so our response needs to be carefully weighed, in light of its eternal consequences.

The Gospel message is seen as offensive by those who reject it. That is true because it causes such discomfort when our pride is wounded by our sin being exposed. The Gospel says that we are dead in sins (Ephesians 2:1) and we don’t like that. It offends us to find out we have been duped by the “father of lies” (John 8:44) and that as a consequence we are doomed to eternal destruction. In that way, it is an aroma of “death unto death” (v. 16).

But we have another option. We can repent and believe the Gospel. If we can set aside our pride and admit to our spiritual bankruptcy before God, we can be saved. For the Gospel does not end with a message of death and destruction. It continues with a message of hope and new life in Christ Jesus!  We learn about His offer of life, and if we respond in obedience we are graced with eternal life. Thus, in the case of those who are saved, it is a message of “life unto life” (v. 16). What we have to decide is which type of message it will be for each of us!

But there is another warning here for those who proclaim the message. It is not to be corrupted, watered down, or peddled. I really like the way the Amplified Bible translates verse 17:

17 For we are not, like so many, [like hucksters making a trade of] peddling God’s Word [shortchanging and adulterating the divine message]; but like [men] of sincerity and the purest motive, as [commissioned and sent] by God, we speak [His message] in Christ (the Messiah), in the [very] sight and presence of God.

The Apostles did not use the message for personal gain. I often wonder whether Jesus or the Apostles, had they been with us today, would have made money by selling their teaching series on CD or DVD to their partners. No, they had a threefold commission to preach the Gospel.

They were:

1.        Sincere and had pure motives. There was no thought of personal gain or of being popular and accepted by the culture.

2.        Commissioned and sent by God. Their only thought was to be faithful to the God who commissioned them. They were not consumed with thoughts of making the message more palatable for their listeners or of marketing their ministries.

3.        They spoke the message in Christ, in the sight of God. Their sole mission was to be pleasing to God. They also kept themselves cognizant of the fact that God was watching over all that they did and would hold them accountable for completing the work he had sent them to do.

So yes, we all smell like something. Our message will have, not only different, but completely opposite effects on those who hear us. So rather that water down the message, realize that it only matters what God thinks of us, and that our reward is not determined by our popularity with men, but our faithfulness to God.

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Keeping It Simple

I like keeping things simple and easy to understand. There is a virtue in making sure we make things understandable for people, especially when it comes to salvation. We are not Gnostics with some special knowledge that is only for us. We have a life giving message that our Lord commissioned us to proclaim to everyone on earth. We don’t have time for a 1000 page dissertation on what it takes to become a Christian. So let’s break it down to three essential questions and answers we can give to someone who would ask us about what is required to be a Christian.

1. How much am I required to know?
You have to know something, but you don’t have to know everything. The Apostle Paul summarized it well in his letter to the church at Corinth.

“1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”
(1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

You must believe that Christ died, was buried, and rose again. That is the Gospel message. But that leads to the next question,

2. What must I do about what I know?
You must participate in that death, burial, and resurrection, too. It’s called baptism. It sums up what you believe and shows that you have turned from your old way of life (called repentance). Again, Paul illustrates it for us, this time in Romans 6.

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, (Romans 6:3-5 NASB)

In effect, we are participating in what we know.

3. What happens after that?
We gather with other believers and remember that death, burial, and resurrection and encourage one another as we strive to follow Jesus.

Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16 NASB)

This walk of faith is not designed to be done alone. We gather to remember what Christ has done and to be equipped to share that message with others.

I realize this is very basic, but we must all begin somewhere. If we focus our evangelistic message on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, we also make sure that the message is not about us — it’s about Jesus. We are not commanded to convert people to us; we are commanded to make disciples of Jesus.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19, 20 NASB)

There are our marching orders. He tells us to make disciples and also tells us how to do it. Let us go forth in the simplicity of devotion to Christ with the truth of Jesus’ death burial and resurrection as our message. Amen.

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Being Terminal

I am terminal, and so are you. No, I don’t have some dreaded disease. Let me explain what I mean.

A few years ago, country singer Tim McGraw wrote a hit song that was inspired by his experience with his father who died from brain cancer. It was called “Live Like You Were Dying” and the message was one about how differently people live if they know the have a terminal disease. It certainly does provoke some deep thinking. What would we do differently? How would we treat others? What things would not be left unsaid?
Well I’ve got news for you. According to the Bible I’m terminal and so are you!

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, (Hebrews 9:27 ESV)

Well there you have it. Every one of us has an appointment with death that is certain to happen. If that’s not terminal, then what is? How long do you have? That is something none of us knows. It may be tomorrow, and it may be 90 years from now. But with this in mind, how should we live?

First off, make sure of your relationship with God. Look in the bible and find out what you must do to be saved. Don’t take someone else’s word for it, either. A dying man or woman needs to get the facts for themselves by doing their own research. You cannot afford to be wrong!

For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2 ESV)

Regarding salvation, you should also not delay telling someone about Jesus so that they can have faith in Him, too! Do not put it off until tomorrow. It could be your last chance to tell them, or their last chance to hear it. You are both terminal, so you can’t be sure. People’s eternal destiny hangs in the balance, so don’t withhold the Gospel because you don’t think they will receive it. Jesus could read men’s heart, not you. Plant the seed or water it, and let God provide the harvest!

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7 NKJV)

Another thing to do is to walk in love and forgiveness. I have seen many people who made it their first order of business upon learning they were terminally ill, to make sure they had forgiven everyone, and asked for forgiveness where needed. Impending death has a way of clarifying what is important in life. I have also seen some weep with regret over things left unsaid. As our first verse said, we are all going to die, so make sure your relationships with others are right, with no thanks, or apologies left unsaid.

Lastly (although I am sure there could be more) do great things for God. Consider this for a moment. What would you do in service and love for God if you knew you would not fail? Would you learn a language and reach out to those from other cultures here or abroad with the Good News of Jesus? How far out of your comfort zone would you be willing to go to be a living epistle and show someone the love of God? Think about it! Jesus said He would be with us always, so you have nothing to fear and everything to gain.

When this life is over, wouldn’t it be wonderful to say along with the Apostle Paul:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NKJV)

Time is running out. People are dying every day that don’t know Jesus. Do something! Live the adventure in Christ, and live like you were dying!

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Jumping For Jesus

Have you ever read about the miracles in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles and wondered what it would have been like to have witnessed them? The wonder and amazement you would have felt would have been life changing.
I want to take a look at the healing of the lame man at the temple by Peter and John in Acts 3 and draw some lessons from it.

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene-walk!” And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:1-10 NASB)

The story goes further to include the preaching that occurred after the miracle, but my intention is to focus on the first part. One of the first things mentioned is that the man was born lame. This was no temporary condition from an injury that would eventually be recovered from. He had been born that way. Ever wonder why you can’t find a so-called faith healer attempting to heal people with conditions they have had from birth? No headings of those with deformed limbs, or Down Syndrome or conjoined twins. This also meant that everyone would know who he was and would have to give God credit for the healing.

Another thing I see here is that this spot by the temple gate was where he was always taken. Jesus, during his earthly ministry, went to the temple numerous times. Surely he had seen this man there. And yet Jesus did not stop and heal him. By passing the man by, Jesus was demonstrating that it is not always God’s will to heal everyone right now. Jesus was directly led by the Spirit, and only did those things he was told to do. Was it because He had no compassion for this lame man? No, it was because, in this case, the healing was to take place later at a time that would bring glory to God and facilitate Peter and John preaching and souls being saved!

After the healing took place, the man gave thanks and praise to his healer – God! He was not ashamed to openly and boldly let everyone know who had made such a dramatic change in his life. Should we be any less enthused about what God has done for us in Christ? We were all under condemnation and sentenced to eternal destruction. But someone, somewhere, at some time told us about Jesus. We heard, believed, repented, confessed Jesus as Lord,and we’re baptized. We are now on the road to heaven because someone has paid our penalty for us. Shouldn’t we be every bit as excited as the lame man who could now leap?

Since the miracle had created an opportunity to preach, Peter and John seized the moment and proclaimed Christ to the crowd. They didn’t sign up those who heard as their partners and certainly did not take an offering to support the ministry. Jesus was the center of their ministry. Yet how many today claim power to heal, and will pray for you when you send in an offering?
Another point I would like to make here is that throughout the rest of the New Testament, the Apostles went around the world starting one thing, and one thing only – churches! The didn’t start ministries in every city, the planted congregations! They didn’t even start ministries of their own. No Peter and John Ministries, Inc. no, the Great Commission was to be accomplished by churches, period!

In the end, the lame man’s enthusiasm drew a crowd, and multitudes were saved. Let’s get fired up about what Jesus has done for us and see who asks us for an explanation for our joy! And may many souls be brought into the Kingdom!

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Soul Sleep

There is a popular, although not a majority, teaching which says that when we die, we are not conscious of anything and are in a state of sleep until the resurrection. That’s not what I am writing about. What I am writing about is the two different ways that someone’s soul can be asleep in the here and now.

The first type of sleep is completely natural. The natural, carnal, unregenerate human is asleep to the things of God. In fact, he is probably oblivious to spiritual things. If not, he believes they are foolishness.

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2:14 NASB)

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18 NASB)

Because of this deep sleep, which is also spiritual death, it takes a supernatural force to awaken them from this sleep. God has provided such a force, and it is His Word. The only way to bring faith to life is for some one to hear the Word of God and believe it.

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:14-17 NASB)

And so the call goes forth to all who are willing to hear to wake up, in the same way turning on a bright light can wake someone from sleep. We shine the light of Jesus and ask them to choose to rise and live.

But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says,
“Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:13, 14 NASB)

But there is another type of soul sleep. It can affect Christians who become comfortable with their level of growth and decide to stay there. The enemy lulls them to sleep and they become unaware of their backsliding. For staying at one level is not possible. We are either moving forward or sliding backward.
One question we can reflect on is this: was there a time in the past when I was more on fire for God? When I had more zeal and was bearing more fruit? If you can say yes to any or all of those questions, you are in a backslidden condition and need to get back on the road to heaven.

Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. (Romans 13:11-14 NASB)

I am convinced that this condition was what happened to the church at Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2. They didn’t hold an elders meeting one day and decide to leave their first love. It was a gradual, unintentional process. If we discover we are asleep, or starting to get drowsy, we née to do what Jesus commanded the Ephesians to do.

But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place-unless you repent. (Revelation 2:4, 5 NASB)

So let’s have a wake up call. We can’t wake up sinners in the darkness if we are asleep in the light! I love the way the late Keith Green put it. (edited for space)

Do you see, do you see
All the people sinking down?
Don’t you care? Don’t you care?
Are you going to let them drown?
How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come?
Don’t close your eyes and pretend the job’s done!

Open up, open up
And give yourself away.
You see the need
You hear the cries
So how can you delay?
God’s calling and you’re the one,
But like Jonah you run.
He’s told you to speak but you keep holding it in.
Oh, can’t you see it’s such sin?
The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can’t fight
’cause it’s asleep in the light!
How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come?
Don’t close your eyes and pretend the job’s done!

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Being Like Andrew

I like to do biographical studies in the Bible. It keeps things fresh and sometimes it helps when I get an overview of someone’s life instead of looking just at single instances. One person I find fascinating, even though little is said about him, is the Apostle Andrew.
Andrew was Peter’s brother, and actually became a disciple before him. While he is usually mentioned fourth in the lists of Apostles, it becomes apparent that his brother Peter was part of Jesus’ inner circle. Yet there is never any mention of envy or jealousy on Andrew’s part. Rather than let pride rule him and become resentful of Peter, he remains where Jesus has placed him, confident that God knows what is best.
Other than in lists, Andrew is only mentioned three times, all in the Gospel of John. And that is not surprising, since John and James were also fishermen and appear to have known Peter and Andrew. Let’s take a look at those three passages, and then draw some lessons from Andrew’s life.

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He *found first his own brother Simon and *said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). (John 1:40-42 NASB)

One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, *said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” (John 6:8, 9 NASB)

these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip *came and *told Andrew; Andrew and Philip *came and *told Jesus. (John 12:21, 22 NASB)

So, what reason is there that these accounts are in Scripture? What do these stories have in common. After pondering and meditating on this for awhile, it became clear what they have in common.

Every time we see Andrew, he is bringing someone to Jesus!

First, he brings his brother, Peter. He is so excited about finding the Messiah, that he goes and gets the me closest to him and brings him to Jesus. How often all of us have seen someone newly converted, who in their zeal goes out and tells everyone they know about how wonderful our Savior is! As we mature in Christ, that wonder and enthusiasm needs to be stoked and kept hot.

Then he brings a little boy to Jesus at the feeding of the 5,000. There is nothing to indicate that he knew this boy. And yet the account doesn’t say Andrew grabbed him, took him kicking and screaming up to Jesus, and stole his lunch. Andrew had searched and found someone willing to bring all they had to the Master. We also should continue to seek out those who are inclined and willing to offer themselves to Christ and guide them to his feet.

And finally, a men came seeking after Jesus, who apparently knows who He is already. Andrew and Phillip simply assure them that Jesus is in fact there and do not hinder them. But these were not their kinsmen. The men were Greek proselytes who had come to the feast in Jerusalem. Yet there is no hesitation on Andrew or Phillips part. No sign of prejudice and thought that any man was less worthy to find Jesus. It is also worth pointing out that there was something about Andrew and Phillip that made it unnecessary for the men to ask them if they knew Jesus. He simply approached them and said, “sir, we wish to see Jesus. In our preaching and teaching, the only way we will be of any benefit to our hearers is for us to remember that what our audience really needs is to see Jesus. They don’t need to see our intellect or wit on display. They don’t need to be entertained. They just need to see Jesus!

We should all want to be remembered someday as an Andrew. Whenever people think of us, what a wonderful tribute it would be for them to say, “he was always bringing people to Jesus”.

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Smooth Talkers Not Needed

Smooth Talkers Need Not Apply
There are some smooth talkers that it seems could sell people anything. There are also some who can give a speech so moving that people run to join their cause. But when preaching, is that what God is looking for? Is He looking for the most gifted speakers or the most persuasive salesmen? Let’s see what the Apostle Paul said about his own preaching strategy.

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NASB)

Paul first says he did not come as a gifted speaker or philosopher. Paul was not an uneducated man, either. He was a scholar in his own right, and could have overwhelmed his audiences with the depth of his knowledge. But rather than give into the temptation to do so, he purposely avoided it. His message was simply about Jesus Christ and his crucifixion for our sins. He would rather be seen as weak and foolish than as a gifted orator.
Why? The focus had to be kept on Christ. How many sermon series being preached around the American church today are on things other than Jesus? Oh, He may get a cursory mention but Jesus is not the central focus of the teaching. The message is on how we can be happy, or prosperous, or successful. The message is a WIIFM statement (what’s in it for me) rather than centering our thoughts and actions on Jesus and what HE wants.

But what about the demonstration of the Spirit and power of God?

God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. (Hebrews 2:4 NASB)

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20, 21 NASB)

While the signs and wonders of the Apostles were necessary for Showing that the message was from God, that message is now here for us. The power of the Spirit is demonstrated by the ability of the Bible to convict sinners and draw them to Jesus.

When we preach with the mission of drawing people to the person of Jesus Christ, and we use the Word of God to do so, the message has inherent power. That power will so draw people to Jesus that they will not be dissuaded by a worldly philosophy. A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument. And their faith will be based on the Word of God, and not the preacher.

What is needed is a generation of preachers who are so in love with Jesus Christ that they can’t stop talking about him. Preachers who will draw their messages from the pure spring of living water found in the Bible, unadulterated by human philosophy and the wisdom of men. They will be men of power that can be mightily used of God to win their generation for Christ. The world can keep its smooth talkers and silver tongued orators. We want men to know nothing and long for nothing more, than the person of Jesus.

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