Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Testimonies

Evangelism & Personal Testimonies

There is no denying that a personal testimony of salvation in Christ Jesus is powerful.  Three times in the book of Acts we read of the powerful conversion of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-22; 22:1-21; 26:1-23).  Revelation 12:11 (NKJV) reads: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”

So a testimony can be powerful.  I have listened to many people share how they came to faith in Christ.  It always blesses me to see the hand of God leading these sinners to faith in Christ.  It amazes me that people come to faith in Christ in so many different ways (by that I don’t mean different in the sense of the gospel but from many sins and many different places in life).  The Lord continues to save lost sinners from rich people to poor people from people here in the United States to people in China, the gospel is moving!  I rejoice in sinners being saved!

However, I do want to warn us that we must guard against the temptation to make evangelism all about our testimony.  Evangelism must include the gospel and the gospel is found in the Word of God.  The Word of God is the supernatural means by which God converts sinners.  The Word of God cuts sinners (Hebrews 4:12-13) and the Word of God brings about faith (Romans 10:17).  The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and He opens the sinners heart to the gospel (Acts 16:14-15).  As the gospel is preached from the Word of God, the Lord, by His grace, opens sinners hearts and frees the bound will of the sinner so that the sinner can either repent or reject the gospel (John 1:12-13).  The sinner who repents is saved by grace through faith by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God (1 Peter 1:20-25).  The Lord calls sinners to Himself through the preaching of the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).  The gospel found in the Word of God is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16) and God saves those who believe the gospel that is preached (1 Corinthians 1:21).  This salvation is His work (1 Corinthians 1:30-31) that God may be glorified!

We must then preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2).  A testimony should never replace the Word of God.  The reason why is simple.  A sinner can hear a testimony from a Christian, a Buddhist, a Jehovah’s Witness, a Catholic, a Muslim, etc. and each of them can describe how they were “saved.”  They will each talk of the virtue of their religion and how faith in their religion will bring peace, forgiveness, wholeness, healing, peace, etc.  And the sinner is wondering, “They all have powerful testimonies of their religion but who is right and yet who is to say that the others are wrong?”  The Christian, without the Word of God, has nothing to stand on but their subjective experience and each of us has a different experience with life.

The foundation then for the disciple preaching the gospel must not be our testimony.  It must the truthfulness of God’s Word.  The Bible alone is the truth of God (John 17:17).  The problem with the testimony of the above religions (or even atheists for that matter) is that they must borrow from the Bible to make sense of their own experiences.  The foundation for the disciple is the inerrant and infallible Word of God.  It is not our testimony.  Apart from the Bible, the disciple is nothing but a subjective story among others.  With the Bible, the disciple is full of the truth of God and the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).  We must be faithful to quote and preach the Word of God to sinners.  When sharing the gospel with a sinner, don’t just share your personal testimony (that is okay by the way) but make sure you quote the Word of God over and over again to show that your testimony is based not on your subjective view of reality but upon the Word of God.  I even encourage you to begin witnessing to sinners with the Word of God before sharing your testimony.  Forgiveness of sins, peace with God, repentance, justification, sanctification, etc. are all based not on our testimonies but upon the Word of God.

Again, I rejoice that people are being saved by grace.  I rejoice that sinners are turning from sin to the Lord Jesus and finding that He is indeed a wonderful Savior but I warn us all to preach the Word of God.  Sinners must hear the gospel to be saved (Romans 10:14-17) and we must preach the Word of God faithfully as God has called us to (Matthew 28:19-20).  The Word of God is the seed to salvation (Matthew 13:18-23).  I pray that our gospel would be full of the Word of God.

Testimonies Change, The Gospel Remains the Same

When teaching people how to share the gospel with the lost, I have noticed that there is often an emphasis placed on personal testimonies for sharing Christ with the lost (or unchurched seems to be the preferred term despite it not being in the Bible at all).  Testimonies are often seen as less offensive, full of hope, often come down on a practical level, and leave the “unchurched” wondering about this Man called Jesus.  While I am not 100% opposed to testimonies when witnessing with the lost (Paul used his testimony after all in Acts 26:12-18), we must be clear in our gospel presentation and must remember that God saves sinners (sorry, I mean the unchurched) by His own power and every person comes to Christ by His grace and His grace alone (John 6:44). Every person then will have a different testimony of God’s saving grace.  My testimony is not like yours but the gospel I was saved by remains forever the same (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

My advice then is to share your testimony but don’t neglect the gospel.  I fear that people won’t to share their testimony because they don’t really know the gospel.  In fact, I have encountered “former” Christians who could share with you both their testimony of how they came to Christ and now their testimony of why they don’t believe in Christ.  Testimonies come and go.  Testimonies often change.  People will add to their testimony or take away from it depending on the situation.  The gospel does not change.  The gospel must be our focus.

The fact remains that every person we share Christ with is lost.  They are not unchurched.  In fact, they hate God (Romans 1:18-19).  People are not seeking after truth.  They hate the truth (Romans 1:25).  People love their sins and they especially love themselves (Romans 1:21-23).  They don’t want the God of the Bible.  They want their own gods.  They want a moral therapeutic God who will solve their problems, heal all their diseases, meet all their needs, and bless their socks off.  They don’t want a holy God who is wrathful against sin (Psalm 7:11 NKJV).  They don’t want a holy God who judges sinners (Romans 2:7-10; Revelation 20:11-15).  They don’t want a holy God who calls out to us to repent and turn from our wicked ways (Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Peter 3:9).  They want a loving God, a soft God, a God who will not judge them.  They want to live in their sins while claiming heaven (Matthew 1:21) but they are in error about God’s holy character (Romans 6:23) and His call to perfection (Matthew 5:48).

We must preach the holy wrath of God against sin.  We must open our Bibles and preach the law of God on sin (Romans 7:7).  We must warn sinners that those who break God’s law will be judged by that very law (James 2:10-13).  We must show sinners that the moral law exposes their guilt before God (Galatians 3:23-24).  The law shows us our guilt and the gospel shows us the mercy of God in the giving of His Son for our sins.  Without the preaching of the law, the sinner does not see their desperate need for salvation.  The law prepares the heart of the sinner to see the grace of God.  When the sinner sees their sinfulness before a holy God (1 John 3:4), the beauty of the cross shines forth and the gospel becomes precious to the sinner.

Testimonies don’t always do all that.  Again, I don’t have an issue with sharing with a sinner how I came to Christ.  In reality, He found me (2 Timothy 1:9).  The Bible says that the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  The great Shepherd goes after His sheep (Luke 15:1-7).  The Holy Spirit opens the sinner’s eyes to the gospel and reveals our need for salvation (John 16:8-11).  The Spirit does this through the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:14-17; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).  While testimonies can be good to show the goodness of the Lord in saving us, the gospel is what saves (Romans 1:16-17).

One final note.  In Revelation 12:11 we read that the saints overcome the enemy by the word of our testimony and the blood of the Lamb.  Both go hand in hand.  To merely share your testimony is not enough.  We must preach the blood of the Lamb!  Without the blood of Jesus, none can be saved (Acts 4:12; Hebrews 9:22, 27-28).  The blood of Jesus alone cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).  The blood of Jesus alone is what enables us to stand before a holy God (Romans 5:8-9).  We must preach the shed blood of Jesus to the lost sinner.  It is by the blood of Jesus that I am holy before God (Hebrews 10:10).

May we preach both our testimony and the truth of the gospel to the lost (that would be unchurched for some of you).

Short Thoughts on Pastor Worship

I was reading Roger Olson’s blog and his post on preaching.  I too have met many Calvinists who were “converted” to Calvinism by virtue of listening to the preaching of men such as John MacArthur, John Piper, or Mark Driscoll.  The more zealous Calvinists tend to come from being converted to Calvinism under James White (by zealous, I mean zealous to critique, defend, and destroy anyone who is not a five point Calvinist like they are).  I too respect all these men (although I have not listened to Driscoll before).  Several years ago I went through a troubling time and I listened to a series of sermons by John Piper on suffering and enjoyed them.  Piper greatly encouraged me to continue to look to the Lord God as my help and my strength.  So this in no ways implies that I don’t listen to these men.  I do.

Yet I fear that all of us, Arminians and Calvinists alike, are in danger of pastor worship if we are not careful.  I believe it is right for us to respect godly leaders in the Church.  In fact, Scripture commands us to do so.  Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God.  Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”  We can learn by hearing and watching godly leaders in the Church.  No doubt about it.  Yet I fear that we have taken this verse, at times, and have begun to worship these men.  No we don’t believe that godly leaders are gods but we certainly begin to hear them, follow them, and watch them above seeking God in prayer or in His Word.  We begin to believe that if Piper says something or Bounds wrote something, it must be true.  It may or may not be.  There is none perfect but Jesus alone and we are to ultimately focus on Him alone for our salvation and for our worship (Exodus 20:3-6).

Many Calvinists I have seen “converted” to Calvinism like to think that God Himself opened their eyes to “the doctrines of His grace.”  The reality is that they begin to listen and read and watch John Piper or some other Calvinist and soon they were agreeing and even using the same phrases as their favorite Calvinist teacher was using.  They begin to drift toward “seeing Calvinism on every page” just as their favorite Calvinist Bible teacher sees it.  They soon declared with full zeal, “I am a Calvinist just like Matt Chandler.”  And that was that.  They never looked back (for if they did they were never saved to begin with).

For me, my association with Arminianism had nothing to do with a preacher.  I was raised in an Arminian home.  Grew up in an Arminian church.  I was taught early on that we were not Calvinists.  I was saved in 1992 in an Arminian church.  Was discipled by an Arminian man.  Attended a Calvinist college and the rebel in me loved that I was one of only a few Arminian students in the whole college.  I loved being the odd ball in the theology class because I didn’t hold to Calvinism.  I was not (and still am not) a debater so I never was found trying to convert all my fellow students to Arminianism but it was clearly understood that I was an Arminian and was labeled a heretic because of it.  I didn’t care.  I was hungry for Jesus and spent my time praying with the international students, working at UPS, and seeking to be a godly man.  I would occasionally have the Calvinist student evangelist who would come to me and say that I was a heretic and he was there to convert me to the grace of God.  I would always reply, “First, let’s sit down and pray on the floor of my dorm for several hours and then we can discuss your theology.”  They never wanted to pray but only to argue.

Here is my point, be who you are.  Don’t be a Calvinist because of John Piper.  Don’t be an Arminian because of Vic Reasoner.  Be who you are.  Be a disciple of Jesus first and foremost.  Jesus doesn’t make Baptists or Pentecostals or Restorationists.  He only makes sinners into the saved (Luke 19:10).  Jesus saves sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  He doesn’t save Arminians or Catholics. He saves sinners only.  Be faithful to Him and above all take time to hear His voice in the Word of God for yourself and not through MacArthur or White or any other teacher.  They may help but don’t rely on some celebrity pastor to help you seek God.  I could go the rest of my life and never read another Arminian book or listen to another Arminian preacher or hear another Calvinist speaker and I would be just fine.  I can hear from God through His Word.  Others may help but the Lord leads His children through His Spirit in His Word (John 10:27).  The Spirit of God is the ultimate teacher (1 John 2:20-21, 24, 27).

My advice: Keep your eyes on Jesus and make Him your focus.  Avoid worshiping the flesh of men.  Philippians 3:3.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/22/2012 at 11:00 AM

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