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Let the Gospel Upset People, Not Us

There is no denying that the gospel makes people upset.  I have watched it with my own eyes as I explained the gospel to a lost person and then they turn into this ugly, ranting, mean-spirited person who hates God and hates the gospel.  Up until I explained the law of God, they were pretty nice to me and were cordial but when I begin to explain the justice of God Almighty in pouring out His wrath on humans who violate His just laws, it was here they turned on me.  People hate the gospel and more than that, they hate the God of the Bible (Romans 1:18-19).

With this in mind, I pray that we who preach the gospel to the lost would remember that people can get upset with the gospel or with God but let it be because of the truth of the gospel and not us that make them mad.  In other words, yelling a person or simply calling them names is not befitting for the disciple.  I seek to be a 2 Timothy 2:24-26 model when it comes to evangelism.  2 Timothy 2:24-26 reads (NIV):

24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Notice verse 25.  Opponents are to be gently instructed.  This is not yelling at them.  Pointing a finger at them.  Accusing them.  This is preaching the gospel to the them in grace and love.  1 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV) expounds:

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Notice that Peter the Apostle says that we are to give our answer for the gospel with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.  And he adds that people are to see our good behavior in Christ.  I pray that the crowds who hear us preach in the open air would see our good behavior in Christ as we deal with mockers.  I pray that those whom we give out tracts to would see our gentleness and respect.  I pray that those who are offended would be offended at the gospel and not at us.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:21 that God saves people through the folly of what we preach.  Let that be true.  May it not that people see us as the folly by our actions.  They may think the gospel foolish and they may think we are foolish for preaching, handing out tracts, standing with a cross, etc. but let it be the gospel that they find foolish and perhaps our actions for the gospel but not our own foolishness in our yelling, hurling insults, etc.

I write this because I rejoice that so many people are now rising up to preach the gospel in the open air.  There are more street preachers today than ever.  More people are going out to hand out tracts.  I rejoice that there are many people who are becoming passionate to share the gospel with the lost.  But let it be that our hearts are broken for the lost (Romans 10:1) and that our burden comes from the Lord (Matthew 9:37-38).  Let it not be our pride that drives us out to preach.  Let it not be our own self-righteousness that drives us out to preach.  Let us plead with the lost through tears.  Let us preach the gospel and leave the results to the Lord.  Let us exalt Christ and not ourselves in our preaching and pleading (2 Corinthians 4:5).  Oh may people leave our preaching angry at God or angry at the gospel but let them not take offense because of our actions toward them!  Let us preach the gospel remembering that we too once were just as lost, just as dead in our sins, just as blinded as they are now (2 Corinthians 4:4; Titus 3:1-3).  It was the mercy of God that saved us (Ephesians 2:4).  Take no pride in your salvation but humble yourself before the Lord (Romans 11:20-22).  Remember your chains that He broke off.  Don’t allow pride to rob you of exalting Christ even in the midst of harsh opposition to the gospel (1 Peter 4:12-19).

Jesus Bore My Sins, The Wrath of a Holy God

The gospel causes me to do two things.  First, the gospel makes me realize my utter sinfulness before a holy God.  I have no righteousness apart from that which He imputes to me (Isaiah 64:6).  I cannot earn the favor of this holy God.  My sins have buried me in despair and I see how wicked I appear before this holy and just God.  How can I approach this holy One?  How can I find peace with Him who is perfect and I a sinner?

But the gospel also shows me the grace of God, that He would send His one and only Son to die for me, this wicked sinner.  The gospel is the goodness of God expressed in His Son.  The gospel is the love of God expressed in His Son.  The gospel does shout that I am sinful, condemned to die for my sins against this God but the gospel also shouts, “Grace to it” (Zechariah 4:7).  I see my wickedness but I see His beauty when I look at the gospel of our God (Romans 1:1).

The gospel reveals to me that Jesus has bore my sins.  He took the wrath of God in my place.  Isaiah prophesied about this Christ and His work in Isaiah 53.  I will place the entire passage here for us to mediate upon and see the wonder of the grace of God at work in His Son:

Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.

3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.

8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?

9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Notice verse 10.  It was the will of the LORD to crush Him!  The will of God was that His perfect Son would bear my sins.  2 Corinthians 5:21 reads,

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1 Peter 2:22-24 says,

22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Hebrews 2:9 reads,

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

The perfect, holy, blameless, righteous Son of God bore my sins on the cross.  He died in my place.  He suffered for me.  His blood was shed to wash away my sins (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7) and by His stripes I am now healed.  He bore the wrath of a holy God for me!

Romans 5:8-9 reads,

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

1 Thessalonians 1:10 assures us that Jesus has saved us from the wrath to come.

On the cross, the Lord Jesus died so that I might live.  He offered Himself to God for my sins.  In that moment, on the cross, the holy Son bore the wrath of a holy God against me.  That is the glorious gospel!  The gospel is not a picture so that I can feel moved to obedience.  I cannot obey a holy God enough to please Him nor can I perfectly obey Him all my life (Romans 8:8).  I need forgiveness.  I need grace.  I get both in the Son.  The cross is not a mere example of a holy God honoring His Law but it is the perfect Son bearing the wrath that the condemned sinner should bear and will bear if they don’t repent.  The sole reason that I can now be saved from God is the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I pray that we all would honor the Son for His glorious work on the cross!  Salvation is available only because of His work (Romans 3:21-26).  Jesus died for our sins (Galatians 1:4) and He was raised for our justification (Romans 4:24-25).  We can now be forgiven and justified before a holy God because of the work of Christ and the work of Christ alone (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  Throughout all eternity we will worship the Lamb who bore our sins (Revelation 5:13-14).

Do You Grow Weary With the Arminian-Calvinism Debate?

I had someone write and ask me this and my answer is: yes.  Arminianism and Calvinism doesn’t consume me though I do read a good bit of theology books.  I typically can be always found reading a theology book and it usually will revolve around the Arminian vs. Calvinism debate but only as a side note.  I enjoy reading theology books that focus on a subject such as God (theology proper) or salvation (soteriology).  My reading doesn’t typically focus on just the Arminian vs. Calvinist debate.

My theology reading actually is diverse.  I do enjoy reading some Calvinist theologians and writers.  For instance, I enjoy reading John MacArthur and John Piper though I don’t agree with them on every issue.  I enjoy reading dead Calvinists too such as Robert Murray M’Cheyne or Charles Spurgeon and even enjoy reading Calvin here and there.  I have been reading John Gill as of late.

My point here is not to glorify my reading but to just point out that I don’t make the Arminian vs. Calvinist issue a big deal for me.  Those who know me best will know that I often joke about being Arminian (such as yelling, “That is an Arminian song” after we sang “Jesus Loves the Little Children” at church).  I joke with my sister (who is Presbyterian) often about Calvinism.  I truly do enjoy my Calvinist brothers and sisters and believe them to be genuine followers of the Lamb.  I am not “anti-Calvinist” as some would believe a good Arminian must be.

In the end, salvation is the work of God by His grace (John 1:12-13; Ephesians 2:8-9).  God doesn’t save poor Arminians or poor Calvinists.  He saves sinners (1 Timothy 1:15-16).  Jesus said He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  Jesus didn’t die for Arminians or Calvinists but for sinners (Isaiah 53:4-6).  That qualifies me (Romans 3:23).  It will be redeemed sinners who will be in heaven (Revelation 5:9-10) who have been saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  For that, I rejoice!

The one thing we all must do as disciples of Jesus is to look to Jesus alone to save us (Hebrews 12:1-2).  Not to our Arminianism or Calvinism but to Jesus alone.  He said He was the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father but through Him (John 14:6).  Friend, if you and I are to be found in glory it will be because of Christ and not because of Arminius or Calvin or Spurgeon or Wesley.  We are baptized only into Christ and not in a human being (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).  May we all make much about Him and His glory (2 Corinthians 4:5).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/11/2014 at 5:22 PM

The Freedom to Worship

I just read Dr. Michael Brown’s piece on Shall We Burn One Another at the Stake? in which Dr. Brown argues for peace among brothers and sisters.  He points out that Christians have often been hotly divided over theological issues to the point that they shed blood.  He pointed out that during the Reformation, the Anabaptists were heavily persecuted by the Reformers.  Arminius himself was asked by the Calvinists in Geneva to prepare a theological response to the Anabaptists.  The Calvinists considered the Anabaptists as heretics and worthy to be burned at the stake for their views.

Dr. Brown points out that Christianity has many such battles in her history.  This is not based at all on the teachings of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 5:43-48) or even His example (1 Peter 1:23).  We have nothing in the New Testament to suggest that disciples of Jesus should war toward others whether believers or not.  In fact, we have the opposite.  Disciples are to be peaceful (Titus 3:1-7).  Disciples are to to do good to all men especially those of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).  Paul wrote this in Romans 12:14-21:

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I strongly believe then that disciples of Jesus should uphold the freedom to worship.  I am not advocating that all religions are the same or that we all worship the same God nor am I advocating that the disciples of Jesus should not evangelize.  We have the command from Jesus Himself to evangelize the nations (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8).  We are His ambassadors by virtue of being His children (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  I am not advocating that we should just ignore religions and not seek to engage them with the gospel.

However, I do believe that we should allow all people to be free to worship God as they see fit unless that worship violates or hurts others (such as human sacrifices).  Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, etc. should be allowed the freedom to worship and to share their views openly without fear of physical attacks.  No disciple of Jesus should ever desire the death of their enemies.  We are commanded to pray for them and to preach the gospel to them but not to kill them.  Murder is a sin (Exodus 20:13) and murder in the heart is a sin as well (Matthew 5:21-26).

Our passion should be to preach Jesus and to glorify Him with our lives.  Our passion should never be violence in any way.  Jesus clear on this issue (Matthew 5:38-42).  Our lives are to be marked by holiness and peace (Hebrews 12:14-15).  Yes we must preach the gospel to the lost and none can be saved apart from the gospel (Romans 10:14-17) but let us preach the gospel not with anger or intimidation but the truth of the Lord Jesus.  Jesus alone saves (John 14:6) and our passion should be for all to be saved in Him (1 Timothy 2:3-6).  But this doesn’t happen by the works of the flesh nor by forcing people to repent.  Salvation is a work of God.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/26/2013 at 12:19 PM

The Gospel by Matt Chandler

Here is the gospel…

 

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/17/2013 at 1:00 AM

Guilt Evangelism vs. Gospel Evangelism

Over the years I have often fallen prey to guilt evangelism.  I would hear a sermon on the lost and my heart would break and then I would get up, grit my teeth, and go tell someone about Jesus.  I would witness to a few folks and then my love for the lost would grow cold again.  I would read a book on hell and the horrors there and would again want to witness to people to keep them from going to that awful place.  But yet again my love for the lost would grow cold.

The problem with me was that I was motivated to share my faith by guilt and not by love.  I would have told you that I loved the lost and had compassion on them to want them to be saved but in reality, I was just feeling a bit guilty for not doing what I knew God wanted me to do and that was share my faith.   I viewed evangelism as a chore to be done and not as an act of love and mercy enabled by the gospel.

True gospel centered evangelism is not focused on sharing my faith out of guilt.  After all, I am not saved because I share my faith but because of the work of Christ.  When Jesus uttered, “It is finished” (John 19:30), what part was not finished?  He completed the work of salvation that God required and now He commands me to repent and believe the gospel (John 6:29).  God has reconciled me to Himself in His Son (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  This salvation is based all upon Jesus Christ and His shed blood and not my own works (Ephesians 2:1-10).  While true faith works (James 2:14-26), saving faith focuses all on Jesus and the grace of God motivates me toward service (Titus 2:11-14).  True faith does obey (Matthew 7:21-27) but true faith rests in Jesus and His righteousness and not my own (Philippians 3:7-11).

Guilt evangelism and gospel evangelism are quite easy to differentiate.  Notice the contrasts:

  • Guilt evangelism focuses on numbers; Gospel evangelism focuses on the glory of God.
  • Guilt evangelism focuses on my efforts; Gospel evangelism focuses on the work of the Holy Spirit.
  • Guilt evangelism appeases my flesh and soothes my guilty conscience; Gospel evangelism recognizes that Jesus has saved me by His grace and He uses me by His grace for His glory.
  • Guilt evangelism makes me shed tears for the people; Gospel evangelism makes me shed tears for the blasphemy of God’s holy name and character.
  • Guilt evangelism leads me to sow a few seeds here and there; Gospel evangelism seeks to sow seeds in every place I go for the glory of God.
  • Guilt evangelism is focused on methods; Gospel evangelism is focused on the message of Christ.
  • Guilt evangelism leads me to pray just a bit for the lost; Gospel evangelism leads me to pray for the salvation of souls for the glory of the King.
  • Guilt evangelism places the emphasis on me, myself, and I; Gospel evangelism focuses on God alone.
  • Guilt evangelism is satisfied by witnessing to a few people; Gospel evangelism is concerned that the Lamb may receive the reward of His suffering.
  • Guilt evangelism rests in the ability of flesh; Gospel evangelism rests in the sovereignty of God.

I pray that you and I are motivated by the gospel and not by our flesh to share our faith.  From the overflow of worship of our King comes the desire to see others saved and worshiping the King (Psalm 51:10-17).  The Holy Spirit empowers us to be witnesses for Jesus (Acts 1:8).  This power comes from the Holy Spirit and not from our flesh.  The Holy Spirit enables us to be witnesses for the glory of Jesus so that the world can see our King.  Both the fear of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:11) and the love of the Lord motivates us to be His witnesses (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).  I pray that we all would be faithful witnesses for Christ our Lord (2 Corinthians 5:20; 1 Peter 3:15-16).

Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; Romans 15:20-21; Revelation 22:17

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