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Evangelism and the Church – Part 2 – Practically Speaking

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“Preach abroad….It is the cooping yourselves up in rooms that has dampened the work of God, which never was and never will be carried out to any purpose without going into the highways and hedges and compelling men and women to come in.” – Jonathan Edwards

Let’s suppose I’ve convinced you in my last post that evangelism is biblical and it is something that Christians should do.  Let’s suppose, in some small way, I’ve encouraged you or your church to consider an attempt at evangelism outside the church walls.  Many will ask how do I do this?  I mean practically what does this look like?

First of all I want to begin with the confessions of a coward.  I didn’t start out with a burning passion to evangelize the lost in the way that God would have me do it.  I wanted to tell people about Christ, but to go out and do some of the things that I thought about when I really thought what it meant to be an evangelist was just not something I thought I’d ever do.  When I became a Christian evangelism was encouraged in our church and then a providential thing occurred.  Our Pastor was preaching through Romans and Chapter 10 was a watershed moment when it all became very clear.

For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”  How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent?  As it is written:  “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” – Romans 10:13-15

Do you see what Paul is saying here?

He is saying that unless someone gives the gospel to the lost they can’t be saved.  This is a remarkable statement and no matter how great of an example you are in your own personal holiness and character unless you actually speak the gospel to someone they won’t be saved.  So how can this be done?  We saw last time some of the methodology Jesus, His Disciples and the Apostle Paul utilized.  We can do many of these today and in no way is this a comprehensive list but this should give ideas for implementing evangelism into your life.

I must also briefly mention that Paul tells us that we should be sent.  We won’t explore this deeply in this article, but in short it is important to have the support and the oversight of a local church.  Many will do evangelism without it and I won’t go so far as to say it is sinful, but when we have the local church sending us there is a great deal of accountability and protection for the evangelist.

On to our list and this is in no particular order.

Sign Evangelism

Have a good sign made with a clear gospel message.  Something as simple as “Repent & Believe on Christ”.  There are many great biblical texts that will proclaim the gospel message to those that pass by.  Stand at a busy intersection holding the sign and offer a tract if it’s possible.  You will reach more people in an hour than most professing Christians would dare reach in a lifetime.

Walk the Streets

This is one of my favorite forms of evangelism.  If you go with one or two others and walk around your downtown area on a weekend evening or anytime there is traffic you can engage people on the street.  Pass tracts as you go and try to have gospel conversations.  Ask them questions like “do you have any thoughts about what will happen after you die?”  You will amazed how many doors this will open.

Bus Station Ministry

Another favorite place to have discussions.  I live in Iowa and it’s cold here in the winter so many people wait inside the bus station during these months.  Sitting down with people and passing them a tract and seeking a conversation is a great form of ministry.  There are many with time to talk and often a willingness to talk.

Jail Ministry

I’ve never done this, but have a friend that has encouraged me to do so.  You may have to get cleared by the jail first in order to be admitted but they generally have no hesitation to have the prisoner’s being given a Christian message.  Make sure you have bibles to take with you.  This may be an opportunity for an up and coming preacher to have an opportunity to preach.

Tracting

I believe gospel tracts to be one of the most efficient and expedient ways to get the gospel into the hands of many people.  One of the favorite ways to do this is to attend events where there are lots of people.  It can be a baseball game or a concert.  Standing on the street corner and passing  the good news to anyone that walks past.  You will need to learn to deal with rejection.  There is no need to take this personally, get used to it.  It is part of ministry.  A well written gospel tract will go places that you wouldn’t imagine.  Recently I had a woman send our church a message from Texas.  She had received a tract and was wondering if she could get more to pass out herself.

Open Air Preaching

I believe open air preaching to be one of the finest and purest forms of evangelism biblically speaking.   God has used this form of evangelism throughout the entirety of the Bible.  This requires a boldness and a love for people.  I also believe that an open air preacher should be vetted and approved by the Elders of the local church.  There are many rogue street preachers that do not preach an accurate message with love and compassion for the souls that hear.   When good open air preaching is accompanied by others that pass out tracts the preacher will have support and questions can be answered.  The open air preacher in many cases will naturally draw curiosity because of the unusualness of this in our culture.  This can be done on college campuses, sporting events, concerts or any place that numbers of people gather.  Regardless of where the preacher goes it is important that the message be clear and the gospel properly explained.

Abortion Ministry

Certainly one of the most difficult ministries.  This involves knowing what happens and how to combat the lies that will be told at these places.  There are many good resources online that can help if someone has an interest and I believe having the Elders of the church assist in getting an abortion ministry started is critical.  Having pre-abortion packets, gospel tracts and an open air preacher are all helpful resources.  Above all put on love and compassion for the souls that you will minister to.

 

I hope this is helpful, this list is in no way exhaustive.  The message of hope and salvation in Christ is a message that must be proclaimed.  If you are a believer it is an imperative and it is indicative of your relationship with Christ.  The Lord did not mince words on this topic.

 

Kevin

 

Evangelism and the Church – Part 1

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For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. – 1 Corinthians 1:17

How will the modern church fulfill the command of the Lord Jesus Christ to go into the world and preach the gospel?  That’s almost too obvious of a verse to post initially, and most know this verse from memory, yet I just wonder how churches today do it?  Well, I think I know how they do it, but I wonder what they think about how they are doing it…

Evangelism is possibly one of the most intimidating and overwhelming things to do for any believer, especially if they weren’t saved in a somewhat radical fashion.  I’ve known many that were saved and you couldn’t stop them from talking about Christ to everyone they encountered, but let’s be honest, that’s not most of us.  I want to look at a few things that I hope will be helpful if you have honest intentions and desires to actually evangelize those around you.

What exactly is evangelism?

I think most of us have thoughts when we hear the word evangelism, it might bring up images of some lunatic on a box yelling at people. Perhaps that is a form of evangelism depending on the accuracy of the message .but the simplicity of the word is actually quite interesting.  It simply means “good news”.  εὐαγγέλιον euangélion – a good message, i.e. the gospel.

Matthew 4:23 And He went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 

Here we see a good description of the gospel.  Jesus taught in the synagogues and proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom.  We see this as a normal pattern of the Lord’s ministry.  Going into a town, engaging the Jews in the synagogue, preaching on the streets and then healing the people.

And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. – Luke 9:6 [1]

We see this pattern established again and again throughout the New Testament. We see it from John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Apostles.  This is the primary pattern employed for spreading the gospel.  There is no way around this if you are to read the Biblical accounts with honesty.

“Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.”  And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. – Acts 5:20-21

Why the gospel?  What is the significance of the gospel?

Paul tells us something pretty significant about the gospel in his opening remarks in Romans.  He tells us that there really is no other message than the gospel.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” – Romans 1:16-17

One thing we see is that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  I guess that’s a good enough reason, but yet we also see that it reveals the righteousness of God.  A clear and concise gospel presentation needs to present the righteousness of God.  If that is lacking the message is not complete.  Paul gives us a very long discourse on the sinfulness of man, letting us know that all will give account and all are without excuse.

What are we to conclude about all of this?  God, in His wisdom, has chosen a very “foolish” way to save people.  He counseled within Himself before time began that it was the plan to draw a people to Himself through the preaching of the gospel to save those who believe.  This is what God has ordained and we need to pay attention.  Primarily, we need to be obedient.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  – 1 Corinthians 1:18

Any Christian that is honest about the topic can see the simple way in which the gospel was spread. They may ask if this is the way we should do it today.  Should we seek a different, more pragmatic approach to what God has already ordained?

If this methodology is true and biblical what do we do about it?  If we realize this to be the model that Christ has shown I believe we are only left with one question…  when will you go?

I admit there is fear…

I admit there are questions…

I admit there is much trepidation…

I admit there is the unknown…

But how can it be avoided?  Brothers and sister, we must “Go”…  it is a command.

Next time I’ll outline some biblical methods of evangelism and hope that it helps us overcome our fear and love of self and we can be used by God in the building of His kingdom.

 

Kevin

[1] The gift of healing was to establish the divinity of Christ and to affirm the message of the Apostles to the world.  The narrative is not a prescriptive for us today and if it were we would have people doing as Jesus did and going and healing every disease and affliction among the people as the Matthew 4:23 verse states.

 

Fluffy, Sparky & Acceptable Idolatry

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I promise, I’m not intentionally trying to offend you, but I might.  I don’t really desire to agitate or irritate people but I do sometimes.

My job is to proclaim the truth.  If I’m going to sell something I’m going to sell the truth.  The truth is not cheap.  In fact most people don’t want it because it’s sort of offensive…  I know there have been plenty of times when I don’t want the truth because it hurts.  It cuts and it opens you up. That’s what the Bible tells us it will do.

Just before the writer of Hebrews tells us it’s important to go to church he tells us part of the reason why.  And it’s a good reason why and it’s also part of what I desire to do today.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works… – Hebrews 10:23-24

The word “stir up” is also “provoke”  παροξυσμός paroxysmós, par-ox-oos-mos’; (“paroxysm”); incitement (to good), or dispute (in anger):—contention, provoke unto.

It means to irritate and agitate.  I’ll be honest I don’t like doing that with people.  I don’t like to get people angry with me.  But that is the purpose of other believers and the church.  So we can stimulate other believers to love and to good works.

I want to address an acceptable form of idolatry today.  There are lots of things that we accept as idolatry in our world.  Our children, their sports programs, their extracurricular activities, our sports programs, our leisure time and on and on…

But what about our pets?

Do you think you have an idolatrous relationship with your pet or pets; because one is never enough right?  I mean they need companionship don’t they?  Don’t they get lonely also?  Here goes a few ways we might want to consider our pets.

Who serves who? 

Paul discusses this doesn’t he?  I don’t think that all Christians worship their animals the way Romans 1 tells us, but there are those that do.  They are four-footed animals and they do need to be served.  A cat won’t clean its own litter box and a dog won’t pick up after itself, have you ever seen people walking their dogs down the street?  What is it they are carrying?  Who is doing the serving?

Romans 1:25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever, Amen. 

Is it good stewardship? 

This might be touching a raw nerve for some but we must sincerely ask this question.  What kind of money do you spend on your animals?  Does this honor God with all your possessions?

Proverbs 3:9 Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase.

Seeking Comfort in them and not in the Lord? 

Jesus Christ is to be our only need and our only desire when it comes to needing comfort from the ravages of the outside world.  Do you love to see your dog because he has no demands of you?  He licks you and wags his tail and never says, “Hey Kevin, did you get that done today?”  He seems to “love” you unconditionally right?  This is comforting.   Is the Lord Jesus Christ being replaced by Fido?

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

Are you a slave to your animal? 

Does your pet keep you from being able to go do things?  I can’t go to this place because I need to find a “sitter” for the cat.  Our older girls are constantly watching the neighbor’s cat and dog.  It’s easy money for sure, but what if you didn’t have to worry about it?  Wouldn’t that provide some freedom?  It seems things have been reversed and animals have taken dominion over mankind.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” – Genesis 1:26

Dominion means to subjugate and to rule over.  Man has done that with dogs when they used them for working purposes, such as to herd or hunt but just like so many other things in our society these roles have been reversed.

Animals are only temporal creatures.  Man was created with an eternal soul and that soul will live on forever in one of two places.  For believers they will forever worship their King.  For those that have never turned to Christ for forgiveness and repented of their sin they will live forever in Hell under the wrath of God.  It is an awful and fearful thing.

Animals will die and return to dust.  You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. – Psalm 104:29 

I realize this is a sensitive topic because people love their pets and I’ve been there.  I’ve seen it and lived it.  I’m not making a blanket statement that having a pet is a sin or it is even necessarily wrong, but I want us to ask to what end and for what purpose.  What is the goal and am I honoring God in all of this.  Nothing is neutral.  What is not from faith is sin and that is something we should be consistently thinking about.  Me especially.

Kevin

Harmless Christianity

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I had a scary thought today and it resonated with me for quite a while.  What if I lived my life and I’m a harmless Christian?  Have you ever considered if you are harmless?  There are two ways to consider this word and one of them is in the positive and one is in the negative.  I desire to be pure and harmless in the sense of non-corrupt.  That should be the goal of all Christians.

…that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world… Philippians 2:15

This is good and right for a Christ follower, to have integrity and moral purity.  What I’m talking about is in terms of effectiveness.

Let’s look at how Paul completes this thought.

…holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.  Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. – Philippians 2:16-17

This is what I mean about being harmless.  Harmless to the enemy, harmless to my reputation, harmless to those around me in a spiritual sense.  When someone looks at my life, or when they look at your life, what is it they will say about you?

“He’s a really nice guy…”, “He seemed to provide for his family well and loved his wife and children…”, “He had a great house…”?

Nothing here is sinful, although being nice might be, but these can be godly things, but how have you effected the kingdom of God in your life?  I mean to tell you there are too many harmless Christians out there that never make an impact.  They come on Sunday at 10 and leave by 11:15.  They probably won’t darken the door the rest of the week and then they go about their business; we might even argue if they are really believers but for the sake of this discussion let’s suppose they are.  Are they lukewarm perhaps?

Where is the fire and the passion for God?  What do they do with their time that actually matters to the kingdom?  This is not a performance based measurement system that you should walk away feeling guilty about, unless you should.

And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?  Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. – Acts 19:15-16

Here’s a good example of being harmless, these guys really thought they were something and they had no impact.  Their ministry was a sham, a facade, in reality their harmlessness or any professing Christian’s harmlessness is a great danger and harmful to the kingdom.  For someone to profess Christ but never do what Christ did, or to love in the way that biblical love requires is the greatest betrayal of the gospel.  This is a heinous betrayal of what you were saved from.

Please take a moment today and ask yourself, how am I impacting the kingdom of God?  When was the last time I even passed out a gospel tract?  Have you had a conversation with someone explaining why Christ had to die?  Have you cried out for the innocent at an abortion mill?  Or publicly proclaimed the name of Christ to a dead world?

These are more forward examples, but if you are a mother you should be teaching your children.  You should be impacting the world that is placed in front of you in some shape or fashion.  Unless you are just content to be harmless…

Pray that the Lord give you courage and boldness.  That He would use you to further His kingdom, this is the greatest joy you can ever have.  That God in His greatness would use earthen vessels in service to the King.

 

Kevin

College, Should I?

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This really started as a short Facebook post that I never thought had that much traction.  Apparently I was wrong…  I don’t have a big following on Facebook, and in fact I really don’t have a big following on this blog but it’s not about big followings for me.

It’s about hoping people will think critically…

God has been gracious to me in so many ways and of course primarily through salvation.  He saved me.  And He put men in my life that have really taught me things that are useful.  Like how to think.  I don’t desire to offend anyone, so if you are reading this and have already been slightly offended, please read on and let’s think together.  For me that means I must think like God thinks and the only way I can do that is through His word.

The post is about going to college.  I have a 16 year old daughter and a frequent question is “where will she go to college?”  I’ve not come up with a good response yet that can stimulate people without making them angry, but I do need to work on that.

Since I’m not intending on speaking directly to anyone in this post I’ll say it this way.

“Why in the world would I send my daughter to college?”

For fathers and especially fathers of daughters, they may want to really consider this statement.  I’m going to speak to Christian men that are attempting to raise godly children that are either saved or they hope will be saved.

“Why in the world would you send your daughter to college?”  And I think I can include sons in this as well in many cases.

In 2016 the University of Iowa ranked as the number 5 party school in the country.  A very prestigious honor for the U of I.  We do ministry in Iowa City and we meet and talk with these kids.  We see some of them on the way to the abortion clinic…  Yes, that’s right.

What happens when kids go to college?  They engage in sexual activity which sometimes has unintended consequences.  And then people suffer because of it.  Children die because of it.  Lives are devastated because of it.   I do not mean to be hyperbolic, I mean to be realistic.  I know through conversations most of these kids are sexually active and that happens in college and it more likely than not happened before college.  As a Christian I’m not going to intentionally send my children into an environment where they will be unprotected, and I don’t mean that in the way they mean it.

Charles Spurgeon the great English Preacher said this – “Do not leave your children to wander out without the guardianship of holy knowledge, for there are seducers abroad who will mislead them if they can.”

The Apostle Paul put it this way

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart… Ephesians 4:17-18

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor course jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. – Ephesians 5:3-4

For me this is the end of the discussion.  I don’t care if you send them to the state college, to a private college, to a “Christian” college, this will be the norm.  I know, I was one of them, and I fully understand the darkened hearts of young men.

I can’t protect my children from everything that will come into their lives, but I sure won’t send them into combat until they’ve at least been through basic training and probably some advanced training as well.  I will not yield to the spirit of the age, and sacrifice my daughter’s on the altar of this world to get them a “good” job.

We’ve got other options.  There are other ways to do it but as I began this little lecture, we need to think about it.  College marketing groups have sold you and I the “American Dream” of believing that college is the answer to making big bucks, so you can live in a big house, drive a fancy car or two or three, finance your life and live like the Kardashians (almost) and have all this life offers.

I don’t believe college is worthless and I’m not saying it isn’t necessary in some people’s lives, but it is not necessary for everyone.

I’m going to quote myself below from my Facebook post because I think it easily highlights my point.

We can do college for less, but we can certainly do college for a lot more, but I think this is an honest assessment and a fair balance.

Note: this was an unsophisticated Google search. I’ll try and illustrate my point with average annual costs of a State College, according to a website called college data.com.

Average tuition – $24,061
Avg room & board – $10,138
Avg books – $1,300
Avg Total – $35,499 x 4 = $141,996

minimum wage is $7.25 x 30 hour per week x 52 weeks x 4 years is $52,780 (before taxes) I think with a little effort a kid can make a lot more than minimum wage through a bit of ingenuity and hard work.

Let’s add all that up $194,776 You could easily get to twice this with a private college. If by the time my child is 22 or 23 living at home working a minimum wage job, in less than 10 years they’ve easily banked $100,000.00 and not spent $150,000 or more.

Should your child go to college? I don’t know but what sort of a degree would they need to get to start making up the difference? And if they are taught money management skills and how to live within their means and to not be covetous and greedy, being content that makes a whole world of difference in what they actually need to live on.

 

There is a difference between the earning potential of a BA and a high school equivalency and that is estimated about $16,900.00 annually.  We’ve shown above that they can already be $250,000.00 ahead and by doing some basic math it will take almost 15 years to bridge just that gap.  That doesn’t take into consideration that we are still working and most likely earning considerably more money, they’ve not gone into debt and this assumes they actually graduate with a degree which many don’t.

There are hundreds of ideas of how to earn money as children and teaching them the most basic of all skills can place them very far ahead of kids their own age.  My eldest daughter taught herself how to create hair designs by watching YouTube videos and she started a small business that does this for girls parties, or weddings.  She also had an interest in playing the harp so we’ve invested in a harp.  This $4500.00 investment can earn up to $1500.00 on a Saturday playing at a wedding once she achieves a certain skill level.  What an opportunity for a young lady to earn some serious cash but still living under the protection of her home and father and then the opportunity to help in her family income when she is married.

What are your goals for your children?  This is a pretty big deal and a worthwhile exercise to ask this question.  Having a goal eliminates a lot of chasing around and trying to “find” yourself while spending 30 grand a year.

Alas, if our children lose the crown of life, it will be but a small consolation that they have won the laurels of literature or art. —Charles Spurgeon

Or Jesus even said it better For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? – Matthew 16:26

Our children are valuable and they are precious to us and I’m not saying they are going to hell if they go to college, I’m saying we need to think long and hard about the goals.  Online courses cost pennies on the dollar and they can educate your children just as well as shipping them off to somewhere else.  It is each parent’s responsibility to care for and protect their children and that doesn’t end on their eighteenth birthday.   May the Lord guide us in this important decision.

 

Kevin

 

Who is Jesus?

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What it is about the name of Jesus that offends so many?

Just who is this Man?

He is the centerpiece of world history and His existence in history is believed by any one intellectually honest. Today I’d like to ask you the question, just as Jesus asked Peter, “but who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15) When we look at the Jesus that the Bible portrays we have a very different idea than generally floats around in the imaginations of men’s minds. In fact He is quite confrontational and not even close to what most believe. He forced people to make decisions about who He was. He saw into the hearts of people and challenged them and engaged them in their sin.

If we face the reality of what Jesus said we are forced to decide if He is the Lord. He makes it clear and He declares loudly that He has power and that He has authority to do things that are incomprehensible. I want to look at one encounter that will simply challenge us as to who He really claims to be and two very different reactions. These reactions are no different than what we still see today.

And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains…

When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” – Mark 5:2-7

What a remarkable set of circumstances we see before us. A man so strong and powerful that he can break chains and shackles and we are about to see the Lord Jesus Christ break this man’s bondage to the one that possesses his soul. The man runs to Christ and worships Him. He falls to his face and recognizes He is the Son of God and commits himself unto Christ’s power not to torment him. Even the demons believe and tremble says James (James 2:19) and here we see it. We see a recognition of who Jesus is by the demons that have complete control over this man.

Then Jesus cast’s out the demons into a herd of swine and the swine cast themselves into the sea. The account tells us that over 2000 pigs went to their untimely death. Have you ever considered why the man never threw himself over the cliff but by the Providence of God to keep him alive that the Lord might save his life and more importantly his soul. Consider today how often God has preserved you. Consider if He can use you for His eternal purposes and how do you respond to your circumstances? We will see that there are two reactions to Jesus.

Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine. Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.

And when He got into the boat he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled. – Mark 5:17-20

How do you respond to the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you seen Him work in those that you know? Have you seen radical changes in the life of people that you are near or that you are aware of? Obviously the people of this region knew of this man and the chaos he had caused. They knew he was trouble, because they had attempted to bind him. Somehow he ended up in the caves and was mostly leaving them alone, but then Jesus comes on the scene. The story was told, and they were afraid. They saw the power of God and had to acknowledge it; but yet wouldn’t submit to Him, why?

Because it cost them something. It cost them their livelihood, and it caused a financial burden in their life. Isn’t this so often the case, isn’t it true that where your treasure is there your heart will be also? (Matthew 6:21) And these were pigs non-the-less, a filthy, dirty animal. A representation of everything that was wrong with the Gentiles. They were unclean by definition. But were they incapable, or out of the reach of the Lord? Of course not but they were unwilling. They loved their mire more than they valued the One that could save them from their sin. How often do you turn back to the vomit (Proverbs 26:11) when far greater things await you?

Then we see the demoniac’s response. He begged to be with Him. Is this your response? Do you beg to be with Him and beseech Him? What a difference in the responses. One group begs Him to leave the other begs Him to bring him along. What is important to you this day? Is it to be with Jesus or would you rather He go away? Many will say, “well, of course, we desire to be with Him” but do you? How do you show that?

We see our demon-possessed man show how much he now loves Jesus, because he begins to tell people about the great things done for him. Can I ask you a question? When is the last time you told someone of the great things that Jesus has done for you? Do you immediately depart and proclaim the good news? Because Jesus tells us that many will say they did great things in His name and He says that if you practice lawlessness He never really knew you at all. Jesus did not offer this man’s request, He issued him a command and this command has not been lifted and it applies to us today. So let me ask you another question, will you obey His commands? Will you tell others about the great things the Lord has done for you?

One of the reasons many don’t like the name of Jesus, is that He makes demands on our lives, and quite honestly we just don’t like it. Do you know Him, are you willing?

Kevin

εὐαγγέλιον – And God Ordained Encounters

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And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear… – 1 Peter 3:13-15

I haven’t written a post in a while but I felt compelled to share good news today.   The verse above is one of the most well known “evangelism” verses, however most only quote the second half. They sort of forget about the suffering and the threats and troubles that come along with evangelism.   I’ve been engaged in street evangelism and open air proclamation of the gospel for over a year now and my knowledge and boldness grows each time I got out. Disclaimer: this article is not about me.

I write today to encourage Christians. Those that have truly been bought by the blood of Christ. Some of you might evangelize. Some of you might evangelize a little, and some of you may not at all. But I want to encourage you today. I want to tell you what God has done. I want to give you hope that your efforts, no matter how small, are never in vain. The simple act of passing a gospel tract to someone can change their life for all eternity. I will quote my friend Tony Miano and we should never use the four letter word “only”. I “only” passed out tracts. No, if you passed out a tract, you presented the gospel to someone and that is a significant event. That is to the praise of His glory, and should never be minimized.

Today, is Thursday and it’s normally Emma Goldman day. It’s a wretched place that systematically kills babies.    I could go into a long why we didn’t go to EG today, but the bottom line is that God had another plan. It was decided we (Donnie, Roy & me) would meet at the church at 11 and walk the streets of downtown Davenport for a couple hours, passing out tracts and attempting to engage people in gospel conversations. That was our plan. As we pulled up to a snowy sidewalk I asked the guys to pray. I was particularly moved to seek the Lord’s guidance today that He would arrange our encounters and that we would practice 1 Timothy 2:24-25. That we would be gentle and compassionate.

Encounter 1. Demon possessed Vietnam Veteran. No more than 30 seconds after getting out of the truck I attempted to hand a man a tract and he began yelling and cursing at me.   The three of us attempted to reason with him but he was having none of it. He claimed to be a Catholic, showed us his crucifix and repeated a prayer that he says each day, and though his lips may honor the Lord, his heart was far from him. Especially as he repeatedly used the Lord’s name in a vulgar manner. We walked away humbled and dismayed at the anger in this man and prayed the Lord would be merciful to his soul.

Encounter 2. Alan. We moved up to 4th St. and walked past the Scott County Courthouse and one man got semi-angry with brother Roy as he attempted to give him the gospel and then I saw Alan and asked him if I could give him some good news. He refused. I turned and said to him, “sir may I ask you, what would happen if you died today, do you know where you will spend eternity?” He turned and said to me “No, I do not know.” Quick rabbit trail: friends, never let an immediate “no” discourage you. Always ask a follow up question if you can, you will be surprised at how one question can change things. I like to ask if they know what happens when they die, or if they have been born again.

Alan, listened intently as I presented the law and the gospel to him and urged him to repent of his sins and place his faith in Christ. He never took his eyes off of me and he seemed genuinely moved by the encounter. I asked if he had a church home and invited him to join us this weekend.

Encounter 3. Neicey. We turned left from the courthouse and headed toward the river front and walked past a short black woman in a huge orange coat. The hood was pulled up and under the big puffy coat she was bundled up even more. I could hardly see her face. Donnie handed her a tract and I believe she declined the initial offering. Donnie pressed the issue and asked her if she knew where she was headed after death. Without hesitation she said “Hell”.   Not in a prideful way, but in an almost sheepish way. I asked her if she knows what hell is like? She said, no, but I expect you are going to tell me. I described hell as the bible describes it. Utter darkness, no relief from the torment, eternal conscious suffering, with nothing good there. I said God provides us with goodness here on earth even if we don’t believe in Him, and just then the sun came out and warmed us and I said, see how He just provided His grace to us?

She began to describe that she couldn’t be forgiven because she was a murderer and had actually spent time in prison for killing someone and that this morning she had prayed and asked God if it was possible she could be forgiven and that He would send someone to tell her. She said she expected it would come from being in a church, but would have never expected three men on the street to show her the way of salvation. I described to her that Paul was a murderer and read to her from the book of Acts how he consented to the death of Stephen and while still breathing out his murderous threats the Lord Jesus Christ reached down and saved him. We told her the law is a tutor to bring a sinner to the grace of God and that she needed to repent and turn to Christ. She began weeping.

The conversation continued for some time and we all pleaded with her to trust in Christ and we asked her to join us in church to hear the preaching of the word, to enjoy the fellowship of the saints. I encouraged her to open her bible to Psalm 51 and read about David the murderer and adulterer and to cry out to God for His mercy and forgiveness.  As we prayed for her and then walked away the three of us were nearly speechless considering the goodness of God, His providence and an encounter that we will not soon forget.

We had several more encounters throughout our time and as we walked back toward the truck I attempted to hand some tracts to some people that were dressed fairly nice. They looked very clean, very nice and as I asked them to take a tract they politely declined. I pressed them. “Do you know what will happen to you when you die?” “No thank you” was their reply. I said, I hope you’ll consider that question today.

How about you? Will you consider that question today?

“A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one according began to make excuses…

Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind,’…

Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.'” – Luke 14:16-24

Will you come in? Will you dine with Him? Will you understand that you are blind, maimed and poor? Very few understand their condition.

If you are a Christian will you tell others that they might be saved?

 

Kevin

So you want to be like Christ? – Part 2

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Ghandi has a quote that is attributed to him, and I guess I have no reason to doubt he said it. It goes like this “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Isn’t that an interesting quote on so many levels?

First of all there is a lot of hypocrisy in this statement. Was Ghandi like Christ? Some people think he was. Ghandi, never professed to be a Christian, as far as I know, but he is saying that if more people acted like Christ, then it might work better for him. Sure, I suppose… But more importantly, I agree with him. I also disagree with him, but I’m not going to spend time showing why I disagree, because I think there is enough here for the point of this article as to why I agree with his quote.

As a reminder, I started this little series based on a discussion I had with a friend over the years on whether one should be a follower of Christ, or Christ like. I argued that if we don’t start by following Christ we will never strive to be like Him, and that most will never TRULY follow Christ. Many will profess to follow, but when the going gets hard, the hardened get going.

But back to Ghandi…

Ghandi claims that Christians are not like Christ, and I have a lot of agreement with him on this point, so, how are we that truly follow Christ to be like Him? Have we considered, from the Bible, what it means to be like Christ? Let’s look at just two ways that we are to be like Christ. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 Imitate me as I imitate Christ. Paul understood the desire to be like Christ. He had a proper grasp on what was valuable, but he also knew what it meant to really imitate Christ.

Suffering

Jesus Christ suffered. And so did Paul.

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God… – 2 Timothy 1:8 The Christian life and suffering should be synonymous, this is being like Christ and being like Paul.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:10

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. – 2 Timothy 3:12

For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: – 1 Peter 2:20-21

The suffering and patient endurance for the spread of the gospel should be a privilege for all Christians to share in. Did you get that? It’s a privilege to suffer for the sake of the gospel. Yet in modern Christianity suffering for the gospel probably means the air conditioning is out at your church, or the latte machine is broken.

We have no concept of what it means to suffer for the sake of the gospel, in some cases you might be marginalized or laughed at. If you do any sort of open air ministry you will most definitely be mocked, if you are preaching the true gospel, but rarely will you be beaten. At least not in this country. So I think that true biblical suffering is not readily experienced by most Christians, in fact it’s experienced by very few. However, I will offer some hope that the day is coming when the true elect of God will be revealed through the suffering of the church and it appears that day is not very far away. Do yourself a favor and begin to experience it now, so it won’t come upon you as some sort of surprise.

Preaching

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 4:17

Well now, that’s a little bit inconvenient for most of us. In a culture that likes to say “preach the gospel always and if necessary use words” this upsets the apple cart. The word “preach” literally means public proclamation.

The word κηρύσσω kērýssō is a word that carries force and gravity. It means that someone is confronted to make a decision about what they have heard. In fact it demands a decision, and it is a call to obey. In the days before newspapers, the nightly news, and the internet, the way a king would get his message to his subjects was through a herald. One that was sent to deliver the message of the king. He went into the town square and read publicly the message. The subjects were called to obey.

Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. – Matthew 11:1

But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” – Mark 1:38

And He (Christ) commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. – Acts 10:42

Why is this so important?   Why such a radical call? Most professing Christians will think this is a foolish way to spread the love of Christ and they will offer alternatives like friendship evangelism, life-style evangelism or “missional” group evangelism. I’m not saying we should not evangelize our friends, or those in our life, or we shouldn’t have groups of people sitting around talking about missions, but this is not the primary biblical model that Christ, the apostles, the early church, and the church of the past century utilized.

Why this method?

Paul is very helpful to our understanding of why open air preaching and gospel proclamation is imperative to the spread of the good news. In short God uses this method to save people. Not all will be saved in this manner, but many will.

So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. – Romans 1:15-16

Do we see it? The gospel saves…

The proclamation of the gospel, in particular, through the foolish preaching of the cross of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18) is the method that God, in His wisdom, chose to save those who believe. That is hard to comprehend, but it is the truth.

And I can affirm to you that one way to bring suffering (like Christ) is to proclaim the gospel.  Publicly, for those called to do so, through the oversight of your church.  The local church is to provide cover and support for this endeavor.  The Elders affirm a man’s ability to preach and they provide accountability, and protection against errant messages.  Understanding that it is to be men that publicly preach, just as in the local assembly.  Women are also called to serve in evangelism but not in the same way as preachers.  They can be engaged in one on one conversations, or passing out gospel tracts and eliciting conversations with people.  In properly ordered churches this will have an impact on the community.  In this manner we can begin to disciple the nations (Matthew 28:18-20).  It’s a beautiful thing.

This will bring persecution and it will bring salvation’s. If you want to be like Christ, these are two ways for you to imitate Paul as he imitates Christ.

 

Kevin

So you want to be like Christ? – Part 1

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I began thinking about this topic a long time ago and quickly discovered I couldn’t do this in one blog or even two. This post will discuss how we can’t be like Christ, and then the last one will focus on the ways in which we should strive to be like Christ.

We last left off with a discussion that I had over the years with a friend. The discussion centered around being a Christ follower or being Christ-like. I argued last time that you must begin as a follower of Christ before you can ever become Christ-like.   I’m hopeful that I successfully showed the majority of people that even claim to follow Christ, don’t. And also those that have a “desire” to follow really won’t leave themselves behind and truly follow. There are many reasons for this but at the end of day the cost is very high. To follow Christ will cost you everything. Many will disagree with this statement , but when we look around at the surface level Christianity today I think there is little doubt. Let’s see.

I’ve thought about Christ-likeness a lot over the past several years. What I want to show you is what the Bible says about Christ-likeness. Not some figment of the imagination about Jesus. Not the all “inclusive” Jesus, although anyone who will forsake their sin and place their full faith and trust in Christ will be included. No, I’m talking about the Jesus of the holy scriptures. That Jesus. It might be interesting to see what He did, and how we can attempt to be like that Jesus.

What did Christ do while He was on this earth? What are the different things we can emulate about His life. I think this is an important distinction because most things about Christ we cannot do.   Let’s consider a few of the can’t do before we look at the can do.

We can’t perform miracles

Unless you are Benny Hinn (that is sarcasm), you can’t perform the miracles that Jesus Christ performed on this earth. I’d challenge anyone to walk on water, to calm the sea, to create bread and fish out of bread and fish. To grow back arms, cause people to walk and to command the dead to live. It’s important to understand that Jesus did these miracles to prove His deity. It’s that simple.

John 10:37-38 “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me and I in Him.”

We are not without sin

Sinless perfection is unattainable for mankind. Despite the teaching of Mary being sinless by the Catholic Church (here), (here), and (here) we believe the bible teaches Christ’s perfection and man’s sinfulness very plainly, even Mary.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

We cannot drink the cup of God’s Wrath

Jesus Christ came to this earth to seek and save the lost. He did this because man has a problem called sin. God’s righteous judgment calls for justice to be served. Law breakers must be dealt with and the way God deals with the lawless is by shutting them in prison for all of eternity where they will bear His anger against their rebellion to His goodness.

Matthew 20:22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

They had no idea what they were asking Him for, they had no concept that the Christ was going to the cross to drink the cup of God’s wrath against sin and sinful mankind. But Jesus knew, and He willingly went.

Psalm 75:7-8 But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another. For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; It is fully mixed, and He pours it out; Surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down.

Isaiah 53:5-6 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. 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.

As Paul Washer has said, “All men will melt like wax before a blast furnace as the fury of God is unleashed against them.” Unless they repent and turn to Christ for forgiveness of sin every person condemned will face the wrath of an angry God for all eternity. This is a message that is frightening and should be seen as a severe warning to those walking about as if God does not exist. Thinking they have a lifetime ahead of them not knowing they hang by a very thin string over the pits of darkness.

We cannot rise from the dead

Man has been appointed once to die. There are no second chances after death on this earth. We have been given revelation of God through nature and through His word. All mankind will answer for his life and we must realize once it’s over it’s over. This is why it is imperative to speak. To tell people the good news.

And it has been appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.  To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. – Hebrews 9:27-28

I could go on, but I think it’s sufficient to say that Christ has accomplished everything on the cross needed for our salvation. His grace will take us to heaven when we pass from this life to the next. For those that have not repented and placed their trust in Christ, He will pour out His wrath upon them for all eternity. No second chances. Believe in the Son and live.

Next time, I will exhort us to live like Christ if we call ourselves Christians, and I believe this will be very challenging for those in the professing church.

Kevin

Follow Me?

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In my life, and especially in my Christian life I’ve had a lot of conversations that revolve around Christianity. I’ve, way too often, had conversations that don’t glorify God or impart grace to the hearer but I’m thankful that God is growing me to understand Him better and He continues to refine me.

I’ve thought back on a conversation that I had years ago that involved following Christ and Christ-likeness. It’s an interesting conversation and one that goes like this. “I’ve been told before that you should strive not to just follow Christ but to be like Christ.” I’ve given this some thought over the years and I sort of get where this is going and you know what? I agree. We should strive to be like Christ.

However we need to back up for a moment. We can’t strive to be like Christ unless we have first followed Him, because outside of God’s regenerating work nobody would ever desire to be like Christ, in fact, the bible tells us they won’t even truly follow Him.

And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. – Mark 1:16-18

The Lord Jesus Christ did not tell Peter and Andrew to become like Him, He said “Follow Me…” and so we see this pattern repeated in the gospel accounts.

Mark 8:34 …”Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

This is interesting, because now we see that following Christ is expensive. It costs us something. It means picking up a cross and denying ourselves. Immediately this thins the crowd doesn’t it?

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. – Matthew 19:21-22

Very expensive indeed for this young man… In fact, more than he was willing to pay.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. – Matthew 16:25

Apparently following Christ will now cost you your life, all your possessions, your nets, and force you to pick up and carry a cross. How many people are still in?

These didn’t seem to care for the cost either.

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:58-62

And let us not forget that the world will think we are crazy if we decide to follow Christ, because He has some pretty extreme demands.

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. – John 6:54

…”Does this offend you?” – John 6:61

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. – John 6:66

So before you tell someone to be more Christ like, we better first find out if they are willing to follow Him, then we’ll get to the tough stuff. More on that next time.

Kevin

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