Last Friday at work was simply another average, run-of-the-mill routine day. The week was notable only for a severe case of discouragement I inflicted on myself due to my inability to fix a couple of laserjet printers. I took them apart, replaced vital components and reassembled them only to find that neither worked!
As my depressing week drew to a close, I had a surprise visitor walk through my office door at around 2:00. ‘Barney’, a fellow computer tech and friend for the last 15 years or so, came by for a chat. Now, Barney is a fellow who by his own admission is not a Christian, nor does he give any pretense to become one. He has resolutely shrugged off my preaching and pleadings for the last decade. The interesting thing about him is, this past year he regularly attended an evening bible study I had held weekly. The group was dissolved last fall for personal reasons. However, even more fascinating is, of all the students who participated in my class, he has been the most insistent on getting the group back together. He has teased me that since the breakup he has been intrigued by Scientology and is considering joining up with them. The first time he told me I was appalled, but when he followed up by saying “You should really start that bible study again so I don’t go astray”, I realized he really missed the teachings and was prodding me. I truly believe the Holy Spirit is doing a great work in him. Continue reading
The most difficult element in evangelizing the lost for me is introducing the subject of the gospel. In every conversation I’ve ever had with someone who needs to hear the message of saving grace, I have envisioned in my fevered imagination the worst case scenario possible. I could just see the jovial countenance of the individual darken to a piercing glower, his eyes boiling with black clouds and streaks of lightning when I mention the name of Jesus. I imagine peals of thundering condemnation bursting forth from his mouth as the cackling demons controlling him urge on an endless barrage of paint-peeling insults.
But when I actually engage someone in dialogue I often find that is not the case. The person is usually open to the subject, no matter where he might stand. I breathe a sigh of relief and plunge forward. Once a person appears willing to talk about religion that is my green light to gun the pedal, squeal my tires and see how fast I can get from zero to saved! I’m sure some people have regretted granting me audience. I allow my pent up passion for the gospel to rush from my lips like the ocean at high tide. Nonetheless, once the wall of timidity has crumbled I transform into a different creature altogether.
Since my conversion to the Doctrines of Grace I have noticed another difficult part of witnessing now is in proving to people that they are depraved, corrupt and hopelessly sinful. That their only hope lies outside themselves completely and depends only on the mercy of God through Jesus Christ. It can get uncomfortable telling someone how bad he is. I don’t dare present it as my opinion but rather as fact. The perfect law of God embodied in the Ten Commandments acts as a mirror, reflecting the ugly truth of man’s sinfulness. The mortal blow to human pride is blunted by not isolating a sinner’s fallenness as his own personal problem, but as the plague of everyone who has ever taken a breath. It is not a ‘you’ issue but an ‘us’ issue.
I’m introducing a new section to my blog entitled “Adventures in Evangelism.” In the tradition of great men of God such as Ichabod Spencer, I plan to chronicle my interactions with unbelievers (and ‘professing’ believers) as I share the gospel message with them. I sincerely hope that this is an area that I can journal on with consistent frequency over the years. Evangelism of the lost should be an essential staple in the believer’s diet of daily living. Admittedly, if I had kept a journal of all my evangelical efforts over the past 11 years, it would amount to little more than a puny pamphlet of pathetic pronouncements.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve witnessed to many people since I’ve been redeemed, with mixed results, but it has never been consistent and ongoing. I would often times feel frustrated and discouraged in my efforts. This would lead to long droughts of ‘mime evangelism’. That is, letting my actions do the witnessing for me. I wrongly believed that this in itself was just as effective as public proclamation of the gospel.
I have now come to understand the source of my frustrations. For 10 years I don’t believe I had a firm, well-rounded understanding of the gospel message. This made it difficult for me to convincingly convey the weightiness of man’s condenmation through the law. In fact I was taught to avoid making people feel bad about themselves and their fallen state! Continue reading
“If I see aright, the cross of popular evangelicalism is not the cross of the New Testament. It is, rather, a new bright ornament upon the bosom of a self-assured and carnal Christianity. The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it.” – AW Tozer
This is perhaps my favorite quote concerning the postmodern trends in the church. It eloquently and succinctly sums up the man-centered apostasy of this age. Today’s popular evangelicalism diminishes the cross of Christ, while exalting man’s efforts to attain its benefits. Surprisingly, this was written over 50 years ago. Imagine what Tozer would think of the circus church acts so prevalent in our congregations today!
In modern American society, we have been desensitized by all the forms of amusement we give ourselves over to on a day-to-day basis. For us, witnessing this sort of worldly entertainment in the church appears perfectly natural. We are quite comfortable disengaging our intellect, and by extension our discernment, to enjoy a good show. The church needs a wake-up call from the Holy Spirit to snap us out of our half-conscious media-induced zombie state, making us keenly aware of God’s Holiness. Once we understand the righteous character and majestic nature of God through the lens of the holy scriptures, we should bow our knees in reverence, fear, and awe. After an experience like that, we should all grieve at the foolishness we have wrought in the House of God.
Oh Lord, reveal yourself to us in all your glory that we may see the error of our casual, irreverent approach to your throne as we enter into the Holy of Holies. May we all repent and glorify your name with thankful, grateful hearts.
Is God in Control?
The answer, a person would think, should be obvious. Of course God is in control! Most Christians would be indignant at even questioning God’s sovereignty and power over his own creation. Yet, many sincere believers will boldly proclaim this truth, then turn around and state with equal conviction how man has free will to choose whatever he wishes. It is not a question to be taken lightly, by any means. The answer will color our perception of God’s very nature and character. Our understanding of his mercy and grace are at stake!
I don’t think any sane person (other than an atheist) would question God’s ability to control everything. It is quite apparent that someone who is powerful enough to speak creation into existence also has the ability to govern it by his own hand. I think the issue comes down to God’s willingness to direct or delegate the course of human history.
The flip side of this question is: Does man have free will?
If the answer to both questions is ‘yes’, then a third question must be addressed.
How can God be in control while at the same time allowing man to exercise his free will? Continue reading
I found this excellent short article from Reformation Theology quoting Calvinist pastor Charles Simeon’s conversation with famed Arminian pastor John Wesley.
Simeon found common ground between them and fellow-shipped with Wesley on that turf.
Sigh… If only today’s Arminians were as Calvinistic as Wesley!
The problem in the 21st century is the turf we share with many of today’s ‘free-will’ advocates amounts to no more than a molehill.
As I was writing my last post on a weekly scripture meditation, it occurred to me that I need to define what meditation means from a biblical perspective.
When I speak of meditating on scripture I AM NOT advocating any form of contemplative spirituality now so popular in many of our churches. This form of meditation calls for emptying the mind of all thought and entering an altered state of consciousness. There are many other aspects to it of course, but it has its origins in paganism, eastern religions and Roman Catholicism.
Apprising Ministries by Pastor Ken Silva is an excellent resource for sharpening your discernment about this spiritually devastating practice. Keep your eyes open, contemplative spirituality may be coming to a church near you!
Sigh! It disturbs me that every time I want to discuss a biblical concept it seems I first need to recover the original definition of the term from the clutches of heretics before proceeding!
When I speak of meditating on the word, I mean it in the way the Psalmist prescribed it when he wrote:
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
Meditate is the Hebrew word ‘Hagah’ and its meaning here primarily is ‘to ponder’. In other words think upon these things which were written for doctrine, reproof, and instruction in righteousness. Meditate does not mean to empty your mind of all thought and wait for subjective emotional experiences. We are never commanded in the scriptures to pursue such disciplines.
Posted in Theology
- Tagged 1 Corinthians, 2 Timothy, Apprising ministries, Christian Meditation, Christianity, Contemplative prayer, Contemplative Spirituality, Eastern Mysticism, Hagah, Ken Silva, Psalms, Religion