By John MacArthur
Jesus would have failed personal evangelism class in almost every Bible college and seminary I know. Matthew 19:16-22 describes a young man who looked like the hottest evangelistic prospect the Lord had encountered so far. He was ripe. He was eager. There was no way he would get away without receiving eternal life.
But he did. Instead of getting him to make a decision, in a sense Jesus chased him off. He failed to draw the net. He failed to sign the young man up. Should we allow our ideas of evangelism to indict Jesus? I think we need to allow His example to critique contemporary evangelism. Christ's confrontation of this young man gives us much-needed insight into reaching the lost.
Turmoil of the Heart
Though rich and a ruler while still a young man, he was undoubtedly in turmoil. All his religion and wealth had not given him confidence, peace, joy, or settled hope. There was a restlessness in his soul–an absence of assurance in his heart. He was coming on the basis of a deeply felt need. He knew what was missing: eternal life. His motivation in coming to Christ was faultless.
His attitude was right as well. He wasn't haughty or presumptuous; he seemed to feel his need deeply. There are many people who know they don't have eternal life but don't feel any need for it. Not this young man. He was desperate. There's a sense of urgency in his question, "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I might have eternal life?" He did not have a prologue; he didn't warm up; he just blurted it out. He even allowed such an outburst in public and risked losing face with all the people who thought he was a spiritual giant already.
A lot of people, in seeking to understand this passage, have taken the young man to task for the question he asked. They say his mistake was in asking "What good thing shall I do?" But he asked a fair question. It wasn't a calculated bid to trap Jesus into condoning self righteousness. It was a simple, honest question asked by one in search of truth: "What good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?"
The Issue of Sin
But here's where the story takes an extraordinary turn. Jesus' answer to the young man seems preposterous: "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments" (v. 17). Strictly speaking, Jesus' answer was correct. If a person kept the law all his life and never violated a single part of it, he would have eternal life. But no one can. Since he had come with the right motive to the right source, asking the right question, why didn't Jesus simply tell him the way of salvation?
Because the young man was missing an important quality. He was utterly lacking a sense of his own sinfulness. His desire for salvation was based on a felt need. He had anxiety and frustration. He wanted joy, love, peace, and hope. But that is an incomplete reason for committing oneself to Christ.
Our Lord didn't offer relief for the rich young ruler's felt need. Instead, he gave an answer devised to confront him with his sin and his need of forgiveness. It was imperative that he perceive his sinfulness. People cannot come to Jesus Christ for salvation merely on the basis of psychological needs, anxieties, lack of peace, a sense of hopelessness, an absence of joy, or a yearning for happiness. Salvation is for people who hate their sin and want to turn away from it. It is for individuals who understand that they have lived in rebellion against a holy God and who want to live for His glory.
Jesus' answer took the focus off the young man's felt need and put it back on God: "There is only One who is good." Then He held him against the divine standard so he would see how far short he fell: "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." But the young man ignored and rejected the point. He was utterly unwilling to confess his own sinfulness.
Evangelism must take the sinner and measure him against the perfect law of God so he can see his deficiency. A gospel that deals only with human needs, feelings, and problems is superficial and powerless to save since it focuses only on the symptoms rather than sin, the real issue. That's why churches are filled with people whose lives are essentially no different after professing faith in Christ. Many of those people, I'm sad to say, are unregenerate and grievously misled.
A Call for Repentance
The rich young ruler asked Jesus which commandments he should keep. The Lord responded by giving him the easy half of the Ten Commandments: "You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother." Then He adds, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (vv. 18 19).
Scripture says, "The young man said to Him, 'All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?'" (v. 20). That demonstrates his shallow perception of the law. It's possible that on the surface he did all those things, but God looks for an internal application. There was no way he could honestly say he had always kept that law. He could not have been telling the truth–he was either lying or totally self-deluded.
And so there was no way the rich young ruler could be saved. Salvation is not for people who simply want to avoid hell and gain heaven instead; it is sinners who recognize how unfit they are for heaven and come to God for forgiveness. If you are not ashamed of your sin, you cannot receive salvation.
At this point, Mark 10:21 says, "And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him." That statement paints a pathetic picture. The young man was sincere. His spiritual quest was genuine. He was an honestly religious person. And Jesus loved him. However, the Lord Jesus does not take sinners on their own terms. As much as He loved the young man, He nevertheless did not grant him eternal life merely because he requested it.
Submission to Christ
Jesus lovingly tried to help the young man see another essential element of salvation: "Jesus said to Him, 'If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me' (v. 21). Challenging him, Jesus was basically saying, "You say you love your neighbor as yourself. OK, give him everything you've got. If you really love him as much as you love yourself, that should be no problem."
Jesus was simply testing whether he was willing to submit himself to Christ. Scripture never records that He demanded anyone else sell everything and give it away. The Lord was exposing the man's true weakness–the sin of covetousness, indulgence, and materialism. He was indifferent to the poor. He loved his possessions. So the Lord challenged that.
Verse 22 says, "When the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property." He wouldn't come to Jesus if it meant giving up his possessions. It's interesting that he went away grieved. He really did want eternal life; he just wasn't willing to pay the price of repenting of sin and submitting to Christ.
The story has a tragic, heartbreaking ending. The rich young ruler came for eternal life, but left without it. He thought he was rich, but walked away from Jesus with nothing. Although salvation is a blessed gift from God, Christ will not give it to a man whose hands are filled with other things. A person who is not willing to turn from his sin, his possessions, his false religion, or his selfishness will find he cannot turn in faith to Christ.
By John MacArthur. © by Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by permission
How many times have you seen this error message when trying to get your computer or smartphone to connect to a network. The world of technology can be a source of anxiety at times.
We can experience the same anxiety in God’s economy because we fail to connect. There are certain protocols that must be observed or our connection to the economy will fail.
Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. But not the wicked! They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind. They will be condemned at the time of judgment. Sinners will have no place among the godly. For the LORD watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psa 1:1-6 NLT)
Psalm 1 is an example of life lived by faith and is an expression of God’s economy! The many examples in the New Testament of Christ’s magnification of a little into an abundance are everywhere. But looking at Psalm 1 the first question we must answer is, “what is the source of the water in the river?”
California is enduring a lengthy season of draught. America is experiencing a lengthy season of spiritual draught. If you ask the average citizen of either dimension they might answer that their water comes from the river. But where does the river get its water? From the mountain snowpack. Where does the snowpack get its water? From the sky. Where does the sky get its water? From the ocean. Where does the ocean get its water? From the river.
In the Gospels we find Jesus taking a child’s lunch and turning it into a feast. In 1 Corinthians 9 we find Paul reminding us that ministry is to be supported “in the same way” as the Old Testament system of tithes and offerings. In 2 Corinthians 9 Paul amplifies this by reminding us that our giving ought to be NOT from compulsion BUT purposeful, proportional to how He has blessed us and with hilarity. This is so that Christ may magnify our little into an abundance.
It is the same with our prayer life. From where does the water in Psalm 1 come? It comes from our prayers. The water that emanates from the threshold of the temple is our prayers (Ezekiel 47). It flows by the right-hand of the alter (where Stephen tells us that Christ is standing at the right-hand of the Father). Then it flows out the eastern gate until it becomes a river of healing. Christ takes our little prayers and turns them into a mighty river! From where do our prayers come? From the Word of God where we meditate day and night! The consequence of being planted by the river is leaves that do not wither (an evergreen) and the work of our hands prosper. The prosper part is often misunderstood because of the difference in definition between the English word and the Hebrew word.
The English word definition, according to Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary is:
PROS'PER, v.t. [L. prospero, from prosperous, from the Gr. to carry to or toward; to bear.] To favor; to render successful. All things concur to prosper our design. PROS'PER, v.i. To be successful; to succeed. The Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. Gen 39. “He that covereth his sins, shall not prosper” (Prov 28).1. To grow or increase; to thrive; to make gain; as, to prosper in business. Our agriculture, commerce and manufactures now prosper.
The Complete Word Study Dictionary gives us a greater understanding of the original:
6743. צָלַח ṣālaḥ, צָלֵחַ ṣālēaḥ:
I. A verb meaning to rush, to break forth, to come mightily. It describes the Holy Spirit’s affect on persons, making them powerful (Judg. 14:6, 9; 15:14; 1 Sam. 16:13); or causing persons to prophesy (1 Sam. 10:6, 10; 11:6). It indicates the effect of an evil spirit as well (1 Sam. 18:10). It has the sense of persons breaking out, rushing forward in battle (2 Sam. 19:17); and of God breaking out in acts of judgment (Amos 5:6).
II. A verb meaning to prosper, to succeed, to be victorious. It is used of causing something to turn out successfully (Gen. 24:21, 40); of prospering a person (2 Chr. 26:5). It indicates a successful person (Gen. 39:2; Jer. 12:1). Some actions are not able to succeed, especially those breaking the commandments of the Lord (Num. 14:41; Deut. 28:29). It has the sense of succeeding in an endeavor (1 Kgs. 22:12, 15). It describes the success of a powerful weapon in warfare (Isa. 54:17), its successful use. What the righteous person does will eventually prosper (Ps. 1:3); but the seeming prosperousness of the wicked will fail (Ps. 37:7). Concealed sins keep one from prospering (Prov. 28:13). The will of the Lord will prosper in the hand of His Suffering Servant (Isa. 53:10).
Why is this important? Because the context is those who forsake the satanic world system and instead meditate day and night on the Word!
“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” (1Ti 4:8 NLT)
The tree is not one that springs up spontaneously but rather one that has been planted in a favorable place and then cultivated with care. The word riverbank (rivers or streams of water in other translations) does not express adequately the sense of the original (6388 פֶּלֶג peleg̱). The allusion is to the Oriental method of irrigating their lands by making artificial rivulets to convey the water from a larger stream. The whole of ancient Egypt was irrigated in this manner and was the method that achieved its extraordinary fertility! Once again the idea of something little becoming abundant in the Lord’s hands!
I was watching the television news the other night. It was the usual fare: wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, pestilence, human tragedy, murder, drugs, rape, violence, perversion of justice. The kind of thing we are used to hearing in the modern world. Then I heard a voice saying, “have I got good news for you!” It was the commercial.
In the days of John the Baptist, the headlines spoke of only bad news. Roman tyranny was oppressing the people. Herod the puppet king divorced from his wife was now involved in an incestuous marriage. Taxes were high and unfair. Heavy burdens were on the poor and the system favored the rich. Religion was sterile and hypocritical. Corruption, compromise, and sin were everywhere. And into this atmosphere came a man clothed in rather rude garb crying out to the people “have I got good news for you!” It was a message of hope and joy. It was the message that Jesus is coming.
The message of Jesus Christ and his disciples was the same. Except for the fact that they were now saying Jesus has come. He is here. God become man and dwelling among us.
The message the Apostles was a similar message. Jesus has come. He died for you sins according to the scripture. He was buried and rose the third day according to the scripture. It is today, good news!
When you joined CMF you became part of one of the rivulets that feeds the river! Are you connected? Is your ministry positive or negative? Are you helping the body to fill the river or are you part of the draught? Step out in faith! Become a local leader! Start a local ministry!
ccording to A. W. Tozer, in The Root of Righteousness, there is a marked difference between the faith of our fathers and that of present-day descendants. While the earnest endeavor of those who landed upon the shore of this “one nation under God” focused on the root (of Jesse) our present age seems to seek only the fruit! How does this differ from Simon the sorcerer, portrayed in Acts, who sought to buy the power made manifest by the Holy Spirit?
A tree that is planted by a river (Psalm 1) must certainly have deep roots if it is to partake of the nourishment that comes from even a nearby river! Deep roots indicate a maturity in the growth of the tree that should give it the steadfastness necessary to hold firm in the most tumultuous of storms. But even then this would depend upon the firmness of the soil wherein it is planted. If we are planted in Christ then the soil is prepared by His sacrifice and is nurtured by His Grace. Fruit is but a byproduct of being connected to the Root!
Maturity (or perhaps better said, experience) does not occur in a vacuum! Believers of today would be aptly described as 8 miles wide and a quarter of an inch deep. Perhaps this is partly due to the modern information-centric lifestyle. But the stunted spiritual progress of the many gives birth to a lament because being genuinely saved they see the absence of real depth. If they were not truly converted they wouldn’t care. I would not try to simplify this complexity. However, there is one universal deficit! A failure to give our time to the Lord! Since He created time and is the Lord of time how could we pretend that growth could occur in anyway except spending time cultivating knowledge of Him Who sits upon the throne of the universe? Whether we are strong or weak is directly proportional to our relational knowledge of the Holy One. Said another way, intimacy!
What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Php 3:8-14 NIV)
Whatever progress we may enjoy in our walk of faith is reflection of our growing in knowledge of Christ in our personal experience! This requires us to surrender our whole life and devote our time to Him. In this modern world of instantaneous communication we are distracted at every turn. We must therefore relinquish our time to Him Who owns time. That He may “order our steps” in a way that allows us to utilize time in a manner that will allow Him to accomplish His work in us!
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Php 2:12-13 NIV)
In the America of late I fear that our conception of the Holy comes not from the Word but from the image we have conjured up from the depths of our reprobate minds! Sadly, the church of our day lies impotent in a pool of blood from self-inflicted wounds unable to extricate herself. (Jonathan Edwards, paraphrase mine).
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us!” (A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy)
Perhaps it is because we have been inoculated with a slight case of Christianity that is preventing us from experiencing the real thing. Perhaps it is because we wish to create God in our image so as not to interfere with the life we love so much.
“I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please—not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of him to make me love a foreigner or pick beets with a migrant worker. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of a womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I’d like to buy $3 worth of God, please.”
(Pastor Wilbur Rees)
What we really want is to be accepted the way we are not to experience repentance for who we are truly—depraved sinners in need of a savior. We wish to remain comfortably nestled in the womb exempt from the responsibilities of an obedient faith. Never mind taking up our cross and following Christ.
We seem to remember well John 3:16 but forever forget 1 John 3:16 or Revelation 3:16!
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (Joh 3:16 NIV)
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1Jn 3:16 NIV)
So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Rev 3:16 NIV)
One thing is for sure: $3 dollars worth of God won’t buy you spirit-to-Spirit intimacy with the Creator of the Universe! If we want to be one with Christ, we have to abandon the idea that being merely acquainted with Him is enough and that we have all we need in and of ourselves. We wince at any observation of our lives that reflect that we are self-centered, self-indulgent, and self-serving. However, when we think of self-sufficiency, we roll our eyes in pious apathy!
Jesus reproved the Laodiceans with regard to their self-sufficiency and didn’t mince words. He said, “because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” You see, the Laodiceans were three-dollar Christians. They were blinded by their self-sufficiency to their great need for Jesus! They, like we Americans, did not have many material needs. To the contrary, they were very affluent. And like America, they thought they no longer needed God! Have we not like the Laodiceans left Christ standing outside the door of our hearts? We want just enough Jesus to get into heaven.
Jesus didn’t give up on the Laodiceans. I pray that He doesn’t give up on you and me.
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."” – Mark 1:14-15 (Emphasis mine)
According to any good dictionary the word ‘mandate’ is defined as an official order or commission to do something. We are told in the Gospel of Mark that after Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, and after John was arrested, Jesus entered Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God. We are even given the words of Jesus’ initial proclamation:
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
Here we have Jesus saying at the beginning of his earthly ministry “repent and believe in the gospel”. Since Jesus said it, let’s agree that it’s ‘official’. Since Jesus is telling listeners to ‘do’ something, let’s agree that what we have is an ‘order. Therefore, the gospel mandate is simply to repent and believe it. That’s it.
Interestingly, and perhaps sadly, most of today’s evangelism no longer follows Jesus’ simple mandate, but we have substituted all sorts of other ‘methods’. We have hand raisings (with all eyes closed of course) an altar calls. Have you ever wondered why everyone is asked to close their eyes but everyone is watching and applauding folks heading toward the altar?
To spark their interest in Jesus we tell people that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for them. Cool! Well, I love me to and have a wonderful plan too! God and I are on the same page!
Since God has such wonderful plans for folks, we ask them if they wouldn’t like to ‘ask Jesus into their heart’ or we ask them to just ‘give their heart to Jesus’. Those two seem to get great results at any Christian kids’ camp or VBS. For older types who might be more thoughtful about the whole thing, we tell them that Jesus is ‘knocking at the door of their heart”, pleading to get in and the only doorknob is on their side, Never mind that the passage in question has Jesus knocking on the door of the church.
We might even pull out our little cards or Bibles and walk them through the Romans Road, ask for a simple ‘decision’ (and perhaps a signature in the little Bible), and pronounce them ‘saved’ when a decision is made and a dated signature properly inserted.
No matter what method we use, and we use them all, we hardly ever use the simple ‘mandate’ that Jesus used. We never begin where Jesus began. Why do you think that is? Is it because the word ‘repent’ is outdated and politically incorrect? After all, it might make someone feel bad. Are we hesitant about telling people to ‘believe the gospel’ because we are uncomfortable explaining it, or because we ourselves don’t know or aren’t sure what it is? ,
Whatever the reason(s), we needn’t be afraid of just proclaiming what Jesus proclaimed. After all aren’t we fond of the expression “What would Jesus do?” Although I can think of occasions when WWJD becomes rather cliché, this isn’t one of them. At the same time, we need only remember that God saves his sheep and we can’t/don’t ‘help’ God save anyone. Remember Jonah and what he proclaimed after having been tossed into the sea, after being swallowed by a great fish and being barfed onto the beach?
“…with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!" - Jonah 2:9 (Emphasis mine)
Our mission isn’t to obtain ‘decisions for Jesus’, it’s to be faithful in prayerfully presenting the gospel. Our prayer is that God will open hearts to hear and the gospel is that Christ died for our sins. There is great encouragement in knowing that all I have to do is be able to discuss what it means to repent and believe. And if I have faced my own sin head on and believed in the One who took my place on Calvary, it’s not a hard thing to do.
A wise man once said:
“Long ago I ceased to count heads. Truth is usually in the minority in this evil world. I have faith in the Lord Jesus for myself, a faith burned into me as a hot iron. I thank God, what I believe I shall believe, even if I believe it alone.” C.H Spurgeon, October 16, 1887
John Bunyan, one of history’s greatest Christian authors, wrote the story of a fierce battle to take control of a city from its rightful ruler. This famous allegory, Bunyan’s second most popular work, is entitled The Holy War. His depiction of the human soul is a city, Mansoul, with five gates: Ear Gate, Eye Gate, Nose Gate, Feel Gate, and Mouth Gate.
The enemy of the city is Sin, who comes on a daily basis to attack at one of its five gates. Sin speaks to the Ear Gate; he presents vivid, alluring pictures to the Eye Gate; he tempts the other “Gates” as well.
The interesting thing about this battle is that Mansoulcould never be defeated by outside attacks, and Sin could never win in his assaults against the five gates...except in one way: someone on the inside had to open one of the gates and let Sin in.
In reality, these five gates are not Bunyan’s allegorical creations at all — they are for real! Bunyan had grasped what both Paul and Peter understood: that the soul of man is destroyed from the inside, not the outside.
This is why Paul urged the believers to stop presenting their members to sin. The word presenting in this verse is a military term, used in the transferring of weaponry or arms. Paul was actually saying, “Don’t let the enemy use your body as his weapon. Don’t let the enemy have your rifle or your sword so he can use it against you! Don’t leave yourself unarmed...don’t open the gates!”
Unquestionably, you cannot be a holy child of God while allowing your eyes to feast on unholy scenes. Most of today’s new film releases contain scenes of adultery or fornication. It is a fact, according to recent statistics, that over ninety percent of all sexual content in the average film is between unmarried people or people who are married to someone else.
If you choose to watch sin on the big screen, whether in a theater or your family room, you have just opened the Eye Gate and invited Sin to come in.
If Sin can’t get through one gate, he will try another. So, what are the lyrics to your favorite songs, and the lifestyle of your favorite artists? Most secular music today is filled with the same perversion that you see on the screen; merely listening to it may be as deadly as watching it...keep the Ear Gate closed!
You are in a Holy War, Christian, just as John Bunyan said. And you may be your own worst enemy! Sin is pounding at each Gate, but he can only come in if you allow him entrance. Sin can’t win the battle from the outside.
Don’t betray your Mansoul! By all means, reinforce the boundaries...fortify the walls...bar the Gates!
ESSENTIAL FACTS ABOUT THE UNCONVERTED
If we desire to share Christ effectively with the unbelieving world around us, we need to know what the Bible tells us about the ‘natural’ man. We don’t need any touch feely platitudes about the state of unbelievers, we need to know what God has to say about them. Forget for a moment what you might have heard about unbelievers wanting and seeking God and let the Bible speak:
1. They are dead in trespasses and sins.
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins . . . and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
2. They are living under current condemnation.
“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. (John 3:18)
3. Their unbelieving, fleshly minds are blinded by Satan, hostile to God, and they can do nothing to please Him.
"In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor. 4:4)
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. . (Rom 8:7-8)
4. They are lost.
"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
5. They slaves are of sin.
"Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin." (John 8:34)
6. In all this, they KNOW God exists.
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Rom 1:18-20)
7. Although the unbeliever knows God exists, he still doesn’t seek Him:
“ as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 1no one understands; no one seeks for God.”” (Rom 3:10-11)
If we say ‘evangelism’ is “…to present Christ Jesus to sinful people in order that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they may come to put their trust in God through Him”, what about Jesus Christ we are to share? After all, there is much to share, is there not?
I’m glad you asked – it’s a great question! Given everything we are told in the Bible about Jesus, from Old Testament prophecy to New Testament fulfillment, from Jesus’ birth to his ascension, from the stories of his life, from his parables and teachings, from miracles he performed, what’s the most important fact about Jesus we need to share with others? In terms of evangelism, is there something more important than everything else we know about Jesus that we need to proclaim? I believe there is, and we are given a clue even before Jesus was born!
There’s a short passage in the 1st Chapter in Matthew in which we are told that Jesus’ earthly father Joseph was pondering the fact that Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant with a child not his and the cultural/social implications thereof:
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt 1:18-21)
Our ‘evangelistic’ hint is this: She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Emphasis mine). Those few words, spoken by an ‘angel of the lord’ to a troubled Joseph, defined Jesus’ mission before he was born. So given that salvation from sin was Jesus’ mission for coming to Earth; shouldn’t the issue of ‘sin’ be central to our evangelism?
I hope that’s somewhat of a rhetorical question to you. It should be. If you are not yet convinced, let me tell you what the Apostle Paul said was of utmost importance in evangelism – how Paul defined the gospel.
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word 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 in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” 1 Cor 15:1-4 (Emphasis mine)
By now you might be asking that question. Maybe you are familiar with methods for sharing Christ that seem to be more about what Jesus offers in terms of abundant living, special purposes, or wonderful plans for your life. Perhaps you have never even sin talked about much from the pulpit in the church you attend. Well, regardless of what you might not have heard in your own Christian circle, the fact remains that Christ came to die for our sins. While there are great and wonderful promises for the child of God, they are all secondary to dealing with the issues of sin, repentance, and belief in Christ as our substitute on Calvary.
The purpose of this post is NOT to tell you to beat anyone over the head with a 25 pound Schofield reference Bible and scream “Repent or perish!” While “repent or perish” is an accurate statement, the purpose of this post is to remind us that in our ‘evangelistic’ encounters we need to take the ‘discussion’ to the issue of our sin. How that happens is up for grabs and subject to the leading of the Holy Spirit as we share Christ!
ὁμοθυμαδόν – homothumadon
3661. adv. from homóthumos (n.f.), unanimous, of one mind, which is from homós (n.f.), one and the same, and thumós (2372), temperament, mind. With one mind, with unanimous consent, in one accord, all together (Acts 1:14; 2:1, 46; 4:24; 5:12; 7:57; 8:6; 12:20; 15:25; 18:12; 19:29; Rom. 15:6; Sept.: Ex. 19:8; Jer. 26:21). (Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, The complete word study dictionary: New Testament)
If you can imagine for a moment that the Body of Christ is similar to your own physical body you may discover how we may be blessed in everyday function by Him Who is the Head!
My left hand does not know that my right hand even exists! However, when they work together they are able to accomplish more than they would working separately. Why because they are controlled by the head!
Apathy: Can you imagine what your body would be like if some of your red blood cells failed to show up for duty? This is called anemia and the whole body suffers its effects.
Sin: Can you imagine what happens when disease afflicts the red blood cells? This is called leukemia and if left untreated causes death.
Rebellion: Can you imagine if your red blood cells decided to separate themselves from the rest and instead form cliques? This is called thrombosis and can also lead to death.
Why is it then that the Body of Christ has become so impotent? Because we are not submitted to the Head! And if not submitted to Christ then we cannot be submitted to each other out of reverence for Him (Ephesian 5:21).
In our American culture we live and speak in terms of I, Me, and My! However, in the body of Christ there is only One I, Christ, the Great I AM! Submission to His Headship must be absolute!
The “same mind” of which Paul speaks belongs to Jesus Christ our Lord!
The purpose of CMF is then to provide you with the opportunity to be a part of the “community” of believers in the military society who are joined in koinonia (fellowship, communion, and participation). Why is this important? You will never survive the unseen battle if you are an island! Of course you could say to yourself you don’t need Christian Military Fellowship! You could also be numbered among the rampant number of divorces and many other shipwrecks that sadly have occurred among our fellowship.
CMF exists to provide you with training and discipleship opportunities. This year we have added new field staff representatives in the gulf coast region (Keesler AFB); veterans ministry in Montana; Scott AFB, IL; and soon at NAS Pensacola, FL. We still have field staff located at the Camp Lejeune, MCAS New River complex, NC; Camp Pendleton, CA; ministry to the Navy and Coast Guard forces in the great northwest; and MaryLee Heller who leads the Christian Military Wives Fellowship.
However, CMF is primarily an indigenous peer ministry. Have you asked Jesus to join you together with your fellow believers on the battle field where you are standing? Are you molded together “intent on one purpose.” I promise you that Satan knows who you are and what are your strengths and weaknesses! Because he is fighting this war by any means.
Consider that when you became a member you subscribed to the following affirmation of faith and commitment without reservation:
As an expression of my commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to the objectives of the Fellowship, I intend to participate actively and prayerfully in the ministry of the Christian Military Fellowship with my time, talents, spiritual gifts and financial resources.
You are the face of CMF wherever you happen to be standing! Consider beginning your local ministry!
Church Historian Phillip Schaff said of the Protestant Reformation:
“The Reformation of the sixteenth century is, next to the introduction of Christianity, the greatest event in history. It marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times. Starting from religion, it gave, directly or indirectly, a mighty impulse to every forward movement, and made Protestantism the chief propelling force in the history of modern civilization” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church).
Many of us might connect a 16th Century monk named Martin Luther, his 95 Theses, and a certain church door in Wittenberg, Germany to the beginning of the Reformation. How many of us know that Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on 31 October 1517 didn’t start the reformation, but that it ignited what had been smoldering for years? Most notably preceding Luther were; Oxford theologian John Wycliffe (1330-1384), Czech priest and scholar Jan Hus (c. 1369 – 6 July 1415), and Florentine Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola (1452–1498) all had grievances against the Roman Catholic Church of that period, many of which Luther shared. Nevertheless, Martin Luther is credited by most historians with starting the Protestant Reformation, and issues within the Catholic Church are credited as having been the primary causes of the Reformation, although there were others.
If you are interested in finding out more about the causes of the Reformation, just enter the question “What caused the Protestant Reformation?” into a good search engine and start reading. J
Perhaps even more important than the specific causes of the Reformation were the results commonly known as the “Five Solas”, which are summarized below:
1. “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone): Scripture alone is the only infallible source of divine revelation and the final authority for matters of faith and practice. Sola Scriptura does not mean that all truth is contained in the Bible (for example the Nicene Creed is widely accepted and recited within orthodox Christianity), but rather that all mankind needs to know for salvation is contained within its pages.
2. “Sola Gratia” (Grace Alone): Salvation is the free gift of God to man. It is given by God's Grace alone and not through any merit on the part of the Christian.
3. “Sola Fide” (Faith Alone): We are judged righteous in the sight of God purely on the basis of our faith. The atoning sacrifice of Christ leads to righteousness being imputed to us as sinners through a legal declaration by God. This is often stated as Justification by faith alone.
4. “Solus Christus” (Christ Alone): Christ is the one Mediator between God and man and our salvation is accomplished only through His death and resurrection.
5. “Soli Deo Gloria” (To God Alone Be Glory): Every aspect of the Christian life is to be seen as giving glory to God. In essence, this “Sola” summarizes the other four.
Of course there were other results of the Reformation, however the 5 Solas were by far the most significant for Christianity.
Atheists either totally deny the existence of God or they claim they just don’t believe in God, or gods. I have met both types, however there are far fewer professing atheists who tell me that God doesn’t exist than those who merely tell me they just don’t believe in God. When it is suggested that to claim God doesn’t exist necessarily presupposes ‘all knowledge’, thoughtful God deniers will move into the ‘I just don’t believe in God’ camp.
We ask the above question because of what scripture tells us in the New Testament book of Romans, Chapter 1:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity. . . 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity. . . 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
Note the following points about men in the above text.
1. Men suppress the truth (by their unrighteousness). (v. 18)
2. They (men) knew God. (v.21)
3. They (men) exchanged the truth about God for a lie. (v.25)
If you read the rest of Romans 1, you will also find out what the results are when men exchange the truth of God for a lie, but those results are not the topic of this post. The point of this post is the original question “Does the atheist merely deny that which he knows is true?” If the answer is ‘yes’, should it inform how we discuss the existence of God with professing atheists? If that’s another ‘yes’, how should it inform our end of the dialogue? What might change in the way we discuss the issue of od’s existence?
Food for thought and discussion.