Deuteronomy 6:4 is often, and rightly, used to show the Bible teaches the unity of God. Though God is Trinity, He is One. However, Deuteronomy 6:4 is not intended to teach the unity of God but the uniqueness of God as the sole subject of human worship. In Deuteronomy 6:14 God commands Israel not to follow after the gods of the Canaanites. The connection is obvious, God is the only true God and thus the only appropriate focus of all worship. Since God is truly the only God then He deserves to be the supreme object of all human devotion.
To love something more than God is to have another god besides Him. The elevation of another being or another benefit to a place of supreme adoration is an act of idolatry. God alone is God. He is the most important Being in the universe. None else is to hold the place of highest affection in the hearts of men. The most important command is the command to love God. Since God alone is the true God, the greatest command ever given is the command to love God. The first command demands devotion, entire devotion, genuine devotion, passionate devotion, intellectual devotion and active devotion.
The command “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” is the first command. From this command flows every other command. All the commands of the Old Testament originate in this command. All the commands of the New Testament originate in this command. Deuteronomy 6:6 draws a definitive connection between love for God and obedience ot the commands of God. The Christian today is to love God supremely. When God is the supreme object of the believer’s devotions, the commands of the New Testament will be recognized as tangible and appropriate expressions of love for God. The one devoted to God alone, who worships and adores Him above all else will desire to obey God.
Anyone familiar with current Christian music will recognize much of modern worship has a highly romantic flavor to it. To often love for God has been depicted as a romantic love. The Bible never describes love for God in this way. God is not a lover to be wooed. He is not a wife to be romanced. He is a God to be worshiped. The Christian’s love for God is not to be the romantic love between man and woman, but the reverential love of creation to his Creator. Christians are to worship, venerate and adore God. He is to be the greatest desire and the supreme love. He is not Disney world, a favorite football team, a bowl of ice cream, a beloved parent or a lifelong spouse. He is God and love for Him must retain that dignity and veneration which is due the Sovereign of All. This is not to suggest love for God is empty of passion and emotion. The command to love God with all your soul is a command to respond to God with a passionate love. Passion is not the same as romance. Intensity and devotion are expressed in ways other than sappy sentiment, love songs and breathless longing. The most important command, the first of all commands that is the fountainhead of all other commands, is this: Love God supremely. Love God intensely. Love God entirely. Love God as the Supreme Creator who deserves all respect, adoration, veneration and devotion.
Those living in the Upper Peninsula received the product of a mass mailing campaign this week. The contents of the mailer included a cover letter from Strong Tower Radio ministries and a brief Bible study booklet. The material contained in the mailer is benign and rather non-descript. Beware. Strong Tower Radio Ministries is a Seventh Day Adventist radio show. The teachings promulgated by that ministry and the Seventh Day Adventist church include that which is heretical and that which is damnable.
The heresies of the Seventh Day Adventist church include the doctrines of soul sleep and annihilationism. Soul sleep is the belief that when a person dies, his conscious awareness stops. The body goes to the grave and the soul returns to God where it resides in His presence, without unique awareness or identity, until the time of judgment. At judgment the soul is reunited with the body and the person judged by God. This doctrine denies the present, conscious suffering of souls in hell and the conscious joy of souls in heaven.
The doctrine of annihilationism teaches that in the judgment the souls of the lost are destroyed by the wrath of God. The condemnation of the lost is not eternal torment, but a moment of wrath that causes the individual, body and soul, to cease to exist. This article is not the place to critique these doctrines. A simple warning will have to suffice for now. The verbal and mental gymnastics necessary to affirm the doctrine of soul sleep or of annihilationism leaves one wide open to a host of other errors. These doctrines depart from a normal, literal understanding of language and do severe damage to the integrity and clarity of the Bible. As far as I have been able to find, every Seventh Day Adventist church affirms these doctrines.
The apostasy within the SDA church is the teaching that keeping the Sabbath is a necessary part of genuine salvation. Though I know of no SDA church which teaches one is saved by keeping the Sabbath, the official doctrine of the church is that keeping the Sabbath is a mark of genuine salvation. The official doctrine has been carefully worded, but there remains within Seventh Day Adventism those who believe that keeping the Sabbath is a necessary part of salvation. This is very similar to the Judaizers in Galatia who taught keeping the law of Moses was necessary for salvation. Paul declares the addition of any law keeping as a requirement for salvation is a false gospel. Those within the Seventh Day Adventist church who teach keeping the Sabbath is necessary for salvation are apostates teaching an accursed gospel. Not all Seventh Day Adventists teach this apostasy. Some SDA churches teach Sabbath keeping in such a way that it is is not viewed as necessary for salvation but is one of the evidences of genuine salvation.
The Seventh Day Adventist church is dangerous. The doctrinal errors of the church are no little matters. The church’s focus on end time events and healthy eating makes it attractive to many today. Do not be deceived Seventh Day Adventism teaches some things that are good and right. Beware. The SDA church is, at best, a heretical church which will lead Christians from the truth into many hurtful and dangerous doctrines.
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” This Biblical phrase has entered into our culture and become a kind of short hand to express a person’s obligation of obedience to one’s government, especially in the matter of paying taxes. Jesus uttered this phrase in the first part of His answer to a difficult question put to Him by His enemies. His answer is obviously reasonable and just. Since Caesar prints the money, circulates the money, backs the money and uses the money for the general benefit of the nation, then it is only proper that those who benefit from the government return a portion of the benefit received.
Many stop there, but Jesus did not. To end the quote with Caesar is to miss a major part of the truth Jesus is proclaiming. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Give to Caesar the things that pertain to him, and give to God the things that pertain to God. The government is due some things, but there are some things it is not due. The government is due the Christian’s honor, prayers, obedience and financial support. The government is not due the Christian’s worship. The government does not get to bind the conscience of the Christian. Though the government is an authority, it is not the highest. Every government is an authority constituted by God and under God. God reserves to Himself the right to dictate matters of morality, conscience, doctrine and worship. Governments greatly err when they attempt to step outside their authority and act as if they have the right to demand the worship of men, to dictate how their subjects worship will take place or to attempt to compel a citizen to violate his conscience.
As America moves into a time in which the government feels increasing freedom to dictate the conscience of the Christian, believers must remember to always give the government that which is just and right. No matter how wicked the government may become, Christian’s must still must obey its laws, honor its officials and pray for its leaders. However, no matter how wicked the government may become Christians must still reserve to God those things which are God’s. The federal courts, the president, congress and other officials do not have the authority to order the consciences of men. They do not have the authority to countermand the commands of God. The Christian must stand firm on the commands of God, unmoved by all the threats of a nation. The Christian must stand firm in his respect to those very officials who would seek to coerce him to disobey his God. The right path of a Christian citizen will at times be very narrow with snares and pitfalls underfoot, but this narrow way must be taken. Pay your taxes, honor your leaders and be good citizens. Worship your God, obey His commands and be faithful Christians. Don’t confuse the two sets of duties and do not neglect either.
“Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” Proverbs 14:34
In the 19th century research surfaced on the moral conditions that preceded the fall of some of the world’s greatest empires. Though some question can be raised about the research methodology, one conclusion seems undeniable. A strong correlation exists between a country’s morals and it’s continued strength. When a country reaches a certain point of immorality its downfall as a world power appears to be inevitable.
The weakening of the moral structure of a nation weakens its entire sociopolitical foundation. Morals matter for national security. The Bible says righteousness exalts a nation. When a nation’s leadership upholds decency and morality, that is good for the entire nation. When the rulers of a land act morally towards the people, that is good for the entire nation. When the people of the land are moral, upright people, that is good for the entire nation. Righteousness is in the nations best interest. On the flip side, sin brings shame to any people. Notice Proverbs 14:34 does not just say sin is a reproach to Israel, or to Christian countries. Proverbs says sin is a reproach to any people. Any nation is shamed by sin. And the nation does not get to define what it believes to be sin. The nation doesn’t get to hold a vote and declare certain behavior a sin and other behavior not a sin. God determines what is sin and what is not sin. God has declared in His Word what those sins are. When any nation begins to promote behavior that God forbids, that nation is bringing shame upon itself. That nation is doing the opposite of that which will raise it up. That nation is undercutting it’s own foundations.
Greed provides a clear and present illustration of why sin is a reproach. Greed is often easy to justify and explain away. Unless one is discussing someone like Scrooge or Bernie Madoff, greed isn’t seen to be that big a deal. What happens when a nations citizens live greedy lives, interested only in their own personal gain? What happens when a persons prime motivation is his own gain and his own happiness? Instead of a nation of hard working, fair minded people seeking to do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, such a people become a nation of self serving narcissists who are only motivated by their immediate pleasure and interests. The nation becomes filled with people who only do that which can be shown to bring them some immediate gain. Instead of an honorable people, the nation becomes one of cut throats, sharks, con artists and thieves. The inevitable result is that man living on an income that does not provide for an acceptable number of his pleasures considers himself a wage slave. He protests the actions of his employers, cuts corners at work, slows down production and disregards quality controls. He and his fellow wage slaves reduce the profitability of the company and then at the end of the year demand a significant pay increase. Because the company has also been doing all it can to make as much money as possible for the top few, it cuts wages to as low as it can. The company buys cheaper, low quality materials and begins producing an inferior product. The customers notice the change and begin buying from other companies, further decreasing the first company’s profits. However, since the other companies are also bent on maximum gain for themselves regardless of the cost to anyone else, they all enter into a vicious cycle in which workers are paid the lowest the employer can get away, the product is of the lowest quality the company feels it can market and everyone, even those at the very top, find their greed is not satisfied. In this simple and often practiced, illustration we can see a glimpse of how sin undermines a nation. The greed of a people leaves many in financial straits, many more angry and discontented, destroys work ethic, devalues the product and ultimately leaves everyone clamoring for more. What nation can stand with that kind of workforce?
A few years ago the US Army adopted the advertising slogan, “An army of one.” That campaign didn’t last long and didn’t seem to work out very well. Someone in the Army forgot that being a soldier isn’t all about yourself. I know I would not want to be anywhere near battle with a squad mate who thinks it’s all about him, what he’s getting, how he’s feeling and his own well being. That narcissist is going to get a lot of people killed. An army of one is an army destined to defeat. In contrast, the Marines advertising emphasized being a part of a corps, honor, courage and fighting for something greater. One slogan (in my opinion the best one) read “A commitment to something greater than themselves.” That’s the kind of corps I would want to be a part of. That is a group of men who are going to work together, sacrifice for one another, and in the end do great things for their country. A corps, community or country based on selfish individualism will never be strong or healthy. A nation that promotes sin promotes selfish individualism. Every sin is rooted in human pride and selfishness. Every sin is committed because the individual wants to be number one. Why would any nation want to promote extreme selfishness and self-centeredness? When a nation promotes sinful behavior, it is promoting a nation of one. That nation is supporting and furthering selfishness. In the end, that nation’s citizens will become a rabble and a mob bent only on their personal interests no matter what it costs others nor what it costs themselves in the end. A selfish, self-centered population has no stability, no strength and will not stand for long. Sin always brings shame on a people, because sin is selfishness and pride. Sin is contrary to the mindset necessary for a group of people to live together in a strong community.
Righteousness is good for our country, because the social and economic structure of a nation is weakened when it promotes evil. When the pride and selfishness of the human heart is allowed to go unchecked citizens, workers, employers and politicians will all begin to act for their own good and not the common good. The selfish interests of the individual will become more important than the promotion of benefit for all. The nation will become a hollow tree. It may look good on the outside but it is rotten and dead inside. Destruction is inevitable.
A wealthy land owner took a portion of his property and planted a vineyard. He worked hard to make sure the vineyard was well protected. He built a strong fence all the way around the vineyard. He dug a pit to store all the juice from the fresh pressed grapes. He built a tower for a guard to keep watch over the vineyard and protect it from thieves. When the vineyard was finished and all the young vines planted, he rented out the fruitful land to some men to tend it and watch over it. Satisfied with his preparations the owner went on a long trip.
When harvest time came, the land owner sent a messenger to the share croppers to collect the rent they owed him. The farmers did not want to pay what they owed, but sought to keep all the crop for themselves. They took the messenger, beat him and sent him empty handed back to the owner. The owner sent another messenger to collect his rent and this time they threw stones at him and drove him away with severe head injuries. The land owner kept sending servants, and every servant the tenants rejected, beating some and killing others.
Finally the land owner decided he would send his only son to collect his rent. Surely these ungrateful, dishonest men would show respect to the land owner’s son. They might mistreat his servants, but never mistreat his son. When the renters saw the son was come to them to collect, they decided among themselves that if they killed the son, they would not only get to keep all the crop, they would get the entire vineyard. They captured the son, killed him and threw his body out into the street. How would a wealthy property owner respond to the wretched men who abused his servants and murdered his son?
Jesus taught the parable of the husbandmen to show how the Jews had rejected the prophets of God and had now rejected Him, God’s Son. Just like the landowner, God has done everything necessary for His servants. He has given a beautiful vineyard and expects His people to be fruitful for Him. The work of the Lord is a marvelously complete work. Instead of being rebels against God, the only reasonable response to His generosity is to produce fruit for Him. We must give Him the praise and worship due Him. We must acknowledge Jesus as God and that we are caretakers of His grace to bring fruit for Him. The response of faithful men must be a response of submission and faith. Believe His word and obey His commands.
As the parable of the husbandman powerfully indicates, God demands a right return from His servants. He has made us His people. He has made us His church. He has given us His Holy Spirit to make us able to do His work. He has entrusted to our care the work of His vineyard. He expects us to use the gifts He has given for His glory. He expects us to use the grace He has given for the increase of His gospel. He expects us to be faithful servants. He expects us to be bearing fruit for Him. He is worthy of our praise and obedience. He is worthy of our worship and trust. He is good to all and the only reasonable response to His goodness is one of great devotion and praise. God is due the reasonable service of a life lived abandoned to the increase of the glory of God in this world.
These days many churches are centered. There is even a book recently published called Center Church. The professed center of the church is not the same in every church. Some are gospel-centered. Some are Christ-centered. Some are grace-centered. Some churches do no use centered terminology. Some have a focus, others have a vision, others have a purpose and many profess no core philosophy. Even if the core, pivotal principle of ministry is not defined or even acknowledge, one exists. Every church, and every Christian, operates according to a single driving belief or principle that guides everything.
The popular expressions of being something-centric seemed to have neglected a major Biblical theme. The Bible does not leave the Christian without instruction on what is to be the supreme motivating principle of life. The letter to the Ephesians opens with a glorious description of God’s eternal plan to redeem men. It describes the Father’s role in that plan, the Son’s role and the Spirit’s role. For each person of the Trinity Paul defines the Divine reasoning behind the eternal plan to save. In verse 6 it says, “To the praise of the glory of His grace.” In verse 12 it says, “That we should be to the praise of His glory.” Verse 14 says, “Unto the praise of His glory.” God the Father eternally planned to save that He would be praised. God the Son purchased redemption that He would be praised. The Holy Spirit secures and seals that redemption that He will be praised. The central purpose of Christian has to be the glory of God. The central purpose of the church has to be the glory of God.
Everything else in life and ministry has to revolve around that single point. All else are means to an end. The glory of God drives the preaching of the gospel so He will be glorified by the repentance and worship of those who were hateful idolaters. The glory of God drives the preaching of the cross so He will be glorifed by those awe and praise of those who have been redeemed by His awesome grace.
If life or ministry does not turn around the single aim of increasing the praise of God’s glory, then that life has settled for something less. Life and ministry may be centered around something good, or even Biblical. A life centered on the cross, the gospel, the grace of God or obedience to the Word is a life that reaches for less than the pinnacle. A life lived to the glory of God is a life that encompasses all other Christian privileges and places them in their proper place as means to the greatest end imaginable. The glory of God is not a catch phrase, a slogan or a pie in sky dream. The glory of God is a tangible reality that has immediate and practical effects on everything we do.
The eternal plan of God to redeem people was put into action to accomplish His eternal purpose of being praised forever. The gospel is for the glory of God. The cross was for the glory of God. The indwelling Holy Spirit is for the glory of God. The free grace of God is for the glory of God. The church is for the glory of God. A transformed life is for the glory of God. The believer’s rejection of sin is for the glory of God. Grace filled speech and relationships are for the glory of God. Diligent obedience is for the glory of God. Resisting the devil is for the glory of God. Entering the spiritual battle is for the glory of God. Diligent prayer is for the glory of God. Preaching the gospel to the lost is for the glory of God. All that God did to accomplish salvation, all that God is doing to perfect the believer’s salvation and all that God is doing through His servants to spread the message of salvation to all nations is for His glory.
In the end all creation will stand and praise God. All the church will declare His marvelous grace and eternally shout His praise. The eternal glory of God must be the believers center. If it’s anything else, life and ministry will be off balance and you’ll wobble as you ride down the path of life.
A wealthy businessman was settling his accounts. He called before him those who owed him money and made arrangements with them for the full payment of their debts to him. As he went through his list of debtors he came across one man to whom he had given out a series of loans that totalled over five billion dollars. To his dismay, the business ventures of the man had all failed and he was now stocking shelves in the local Wal-Mart. When the unfortunate debtor came before his generous creditor, he plead for more time to pay off the debts. He promised he would work overtime, get a second job, scrimp, save and make good all that he owed. The businessman had pity on the man’s desperate case and erased the entire debt. He sent the debtor away owing nothing.
The next day the former debtor came across one of his co-workers who owed him five thousand dollars. He demanded immediate payment of the full amount. His friend plead for a little more time to pay back what was owed, but the other would not hear it. He immediately called an attorney and began the process of taking the co-worker to court for the amount owed. When word of these events reached the generous businessman, how was he likely to respond? What should have been the response of the one who had owed so much to those who owed him?
Christians have been forgiven far more than an insignificant few billion dollars. Christian’s have been forgiven eternal treason against the limitless Sovereign of all. Those who profess to be the recipients of God’s multi-billion dollar forgiveness, show themselves to be the most ungrateful wretches when they do not in turn forgive those who wrong them. Those who have been forgiven much must be forgiving others. Those who refuse to forgive will live lives tormented by bitterness and resentment. Comfort of salvation, the joy of the Lord, peace within and peace with others will all be missing. The one who does not forgive will live a life of constant agitation, annoyance and irritation.
The forgiveness of a Christian does not flow out of a willingness to be hurt. The forgiveness of a Christian flows out of a realization of having been forgiven. As others have aptly noted, “Forgiven people are forgiving people.” The magnitude and extent of God’s forgiveness, casting every stain of sin into the depths of the sea and refusing to dwell on his guilt any longer, should stir the heart of the Christian to respond to others with kindness, grace and forgiveness. The model of Divine forgiveness is the template for Christian forgiveness. If being forgiven doesn’t stir forgiveness, then one either does not understand the weight of his own sin or he has not truly been forgiven.
Every Christian has been forgiven far more than he has ever been hurt. The pain of being sinned against is real. Forgiveness does not deny that. The wounds are deep. Forgiveness does not seek to lessen them. Forgiveness does not depend on the severity of the wrong done. Forgiveness depends on the grace of God at work. No matter how viciously a Christian has been sinned against, his sin against God is far worse. God has graciously and fully pardoned His children of infinite crimes against His eternally holy person. His children must respond to wrongs done against them with similar grace and forgiveness.
The letter to the Philippians contains some of the most prized promises in the Bible. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” is found on posters, calendars, cards, Bible covers, lockers, gyms, placards in football stadiums and athlete’s eye black. “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” finds its way into letters of encouragement, missionary updates, facebook posts and many Christian conversations. Two other promises of Philippians bear as much, or more, consideration and repetition.
“He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)
At times during counseling sessions the one receiving instruction on proper Biblical behavior responds with a despairing, “I’ll try.” They despair because the behavior required is so difficult that it appears impossible to do. At times some respond to the preaching and study of the Word with a similar feeling of futile effort. When a Christian discovers a fellow Christian engaging in habitual, ungodly behavior there is a tendency to abandon any hope of that person actually changing. Christians many times view the Christian life as one of unsuccessful labor.
The promises of Philippians, and others like them, are ones of great comfort. They do not negate the Christian’s obligation to active obedience, but transform the believers participation in active obedience. The work God began at salvation, He will certainly complete. God is actively working in His children giving them the desire and the ability to do that which pleases Him. In others words, the Christian life is not impossible and Christian sanctification is inevitable. The work of transforming the life is a work commenced, continued and completed by God.
Hope remains in the face of any sin because the power of God is at work to perfect His children. God is definitely working in you and in others to effect the transformation of daily living He began at conversion. The believer need never despair of God’s working in his own life or in the life of other believers. He is working. He will work. He will continue to work. He will complete His work. Nothing will stop that. The empowering and encouraging truth is that the believer’s task is not to produce righteousness in his own life. The believers task is to cooperate with God to work out the righteousness that He is producing.
Rejoice to obey. He is working in you. Because He is working, you must also work. You must flesh out in your attitudes and actions the work that He is doing in your heart and mind. You can live a life pleasing to Him. He is working in you to do His good pleasure. You can continue with diligence to grow in grace, knowledge and obedience. You must and you can because God is working. God provides all the resources needed to go and do what He commands. Never give up. Never give up hope for God has accomplished and is accomplishing all His will.
The resurrection is vital to the fulfillment of all God’s promises. The resurrection is the ultimate display of God’s power. The resurrection is the powerful declaration by God that Jesus is God the Son and His promised Messiah. In the resurrection is displayed the powerful working of God that gives the believer a new life. The resurrection is the Divine conquest of sin and its consequences. The resurrection is a core truth that must be believed for salvation and is the powerful certification by God of the certainty of salvation. Without the resurrection there is no salvation, no faith, no Savior and no eternal life. Christian’s commemorate the resurrection every single Sunday by gathering together in fellowship and study. Easter Sunday is the annual remembrance of the power of God that seals our salvation, but it is joined with 51 other remembrances of the power of God that brings our salvation. The power that transforms the heart, removes the mountain of sin and strengthens the believer each day is the power of God. The definitive working of this power is the resurrection.
All the sweeping promises from Jesus about God’s powerful answers to prayer come at the end of His ministry. His words are promises to prepare His disciples for the work before them. John 15 indicates power in prayer is a direct result of Jesus going to the Father and sending the Holy Spirit. Answers to prayer are received through the powerful working of Jesus administered through the interceding Spirit to accomplish the eternal plan of God. Prayer that Jesus answers is prayer that is in full agreement with Jesus’ person, character, plan and purpose. Prayer that Jesus answers is that which is in full concord with His regal intentions. When our prayer is in harmony with the holy will of Jesus, nothing will hinder the accomplishment of our desires. When the believer’s prayer is in concord with Jesus’ character, plan and purpose, He will do that which is requested, “That the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
The power of God is never put to spectacular but pointless uses. God’s power always work to accomplish that which is the will of God: furthering His kingdom, promoting the spread of the gospel and glorifying His name. God is not a circus performer, a Las Vegas magician or a celestial Santa Clause. His power is put on glorious display in the salvation of souls, the transformation of lives, the perfecting of His saints and the exaltation of His Son. Why settle for such trivial things as removing Mt. Everest when God promises to remove the mountain of sin, to knock down the Alpine range of our guilt and turn the barren Sahara of our selfishness into a fruitful garden of sanctification?
When He returned to heaven, Jesus entrusted His servant’s with the power to do His will. He told the disciples, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall He also do; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” He then said, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you the Holy Spirit.” God’s power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power that saves, the power that produces fruit in the life of every believer and is the power that works mightily in the life of His children (Phil. 1:6) Rejoice, our Savior lives eternally. All He promises and decrees will come to pass because He is alive forever to bring them about.
Last year a private ambulance service set up shop in our community. As part of starting their business they went through meetings with local officials, complied with state and federal regulations, invested a lot of money, purchased advertising to let people know about the new service but has shown no interest in developing a relationship with me. Not once since the time the company started have I met one of the ambulance workers and had him tell me how much he cares about me as a person. Not once have the drivers and mechanics shown up on my doorstep to get to know or invited me over for coffee to convince me they are deeply interested in me as an individual. I don’t care. I do not expect the EMS worker, fireman or policeman to first show he cares for me as a person before he begins to give aid in life and death situations.
Evangelistic methods tend to follow faddish cycles. From lifestyle evangelism to Evangelism Explosion to door-to-door to The Way of the Master, a school of thought pops onto the scene and becomes for a little while the most Biblical or most effective way to witness. One popular method of evangelism is often called “relational evangelism.” Definitions differ, but a popular kind of relational evangelism encourages people to get to know their neighbors, spend time hanging out with co-workers, have coffee together and build a friendship before giving the gospel.
Developing intentional relationships to open up more opportunities to give the gospel is not a bad thing. Striving to engage those in the neighborhood with the gospel is very good. Seeking opportunity to do good to the lost is good. However, the gospel is not something that needs to be set up by a careful series of coffee encounters or insightful advice about rebuilding an engine. The gospel does not need to be preceded by a lengthy relationship building. The gospel is a life saving conversation that stands on its own merit.
The church has allowed the world’s feeling of being loved to define what is really loving. This makes as much sense as allowing Hellen Keller’s appreciation of music to be the standard for beautiful music. Phrases like, “People don’t care how much you know until they know ho much you care” sound good, but they don’t respond to reality. Evangelism has become perceived as walking down the road of life with others nearby and convincing them to join us on the right path. As a result, we feel the need to say things like “build authentic relationships” or “if people think you are just trying to convert them, they are going to see right through you.” Evangelism is not trying to convince someone to join you on the journey of life. Evangelism is a rescue mission, dragging people from the very gates of hell. Evangelism is a warning sign, demanding men turn from destruction.
Does the fireman dragging a victim from a burning building need to show some extra level of love before the sufferer will let him rescue her? Does the man collapsed in front of a subway train need to know he is important to the rescuer before he will allow himself to be carried off the rails? Do you ask the paramedic if he likes you as a person and knows your intrinsic worth before you allow him to do CPR? Of course not. Those on the verge of demise see the efforts of a rescuer as a sufficient expression of love and compassion. The lost are on the verge of death, a breath away from eternal destruction. Efforts to drag them from the impending inferno are the ultimate expression of compassion even if they don’t recognize it as such.
Don’t let the blind confusion of the unsaved dictate what you can and cannot do in witnessing. Let reality dictate your witness. Those who are rescued will thank you. We must evangelize. We must evangelize as often as we can make opportunity. Evangelism must not be delayed until the unsaved have seen the power of answered prayer or felt the freedom to share a deep personal pain. The kinder, gentler evangelism that seeks to emphasize the importance of the relationship and the value of the person is not all wrong but it needs to be tempered with Biblical urgency. Death and eternal destruction are real. People are not just making bad choices that are going to have unpleasant consequences. Every person is dangling over the mouth of hell and someone needs to strap on a safety harness, leap out of the helicopter and drag him to safety.