Sunday, July 3, 2011

What is God’s Chosen Method For Evangelism?

When faced with the question of what God’s chosen method of evangelism is, some of my missionary friends might be inclined to say that God revealed Himself progressively throughout history, and that therefore we should evangelize chronologically, telling the story of God’s progressive revelation leading up to the good news about what Jesus accomplished on the cross. One problem with this theory is that God’s progressive revelation contains the whole of scripture, not just a few highlights from it, so unless we are prepared to teach someone verse by verse through the whole Old Testament before introducing the truths of the New Testament, we can’t really say we are modeling our evangelism after God’s progressive revelation. The other problem is that there is no biblical example of either the Lord Jesus or the apostles sharing the message of eternal life through chronological teaching. The Lord Jesus did teach through the high points of what the Old Testament says about Him to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus, but it is significant that this whole teaching session took place in the time that it took to walk the seven miles or less (Luke 24:13) that Jesus walked with them (no more than three hours at a slow walking pace), and that the two were already disciples and probably already believers since they said that they had “hoped” (i.e. been confident) that Jesus was the One who would redeem Israel (Luke 24:21).

I have heard other people say that we have to at least teach the Old Testament law so that people will be adequately aware of their sin before we try to present good news to them. There is some logic in this, since the scriptures do say that the law is intended to bring people to Christ (Gal. 3:24), but there is certainly no biblical pattern in the teaching of the Lord and the apostles of always expounding the Ten Commandments first, and only afterward sharing the good news of eternal life through faith in Jesus.

The gospel of John was the one book of the Bible which was specifically written to lead people to faith in Jesus as the Christ (John 20:31), so it is certainly appropriate to use it as a basis for evangelism, but it struck me recently that just like the Lord Jesus and the apostles didn’t teach chronologically and didn’t always talk about the Law, neither did they present an overview of everything in the gospel of John to every person they evangelized. Sometimes the Lord Jesus used an Old Testament example like the serpent on a pole (John 3:14), and sometimes He simply spoke of a free gift of living water (John 4:10). Sometimes the apostle Paul began with a historical sketch before he presented justification by faith in Jesus (Acts 13:16-41), and sometimes he told people right up front “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31) and then later gave them more information about the Lord Jesus and what He had done.

So, as you can probably tell by now, the point of what I am writing is that I don’t believe there is one particular method of sharing the good news which God has ordained. Teaching chronologically may work well for some people, while studying through the book of John may be better for others. For others, a brief message which makes clear what the gift is that is offered, Who the Giver is, and on what basis it is offered will be enough to bring them to faith. Sometimes we will be able to spend a lot of time with a person on a continual basis, but sometimes we will only have a few minutes to converse with someone and may never see them again. And, of course, different people will need different amounts of information to come to the point where they believe that Jesus will indeed give them eternal life. I believe that we should be open to trying different approaches and tailoring our message according to who we are talking to and what opportunities we have. The main thing is that we do make an effort to share the good news with those around us and that we keep the core elements of the message clear.

Monday, May 30, 2011

How Can I Have Eternal Life?

Hi Everyone, I have been mentally gearing up and thinking about how to go about trying to plant a church, as I am planning on really getting started in a couple of weeks, and particularly have been thinking about talking to strangers. I have decided to give people I talk to a small card with a couple of verses on it and a link to a blog site which will basically be an online tract with a place to make comments or ask questions. Also on the site will be contact and meeting information for the church plant. So, below is what I am planning on putting up on the blog site. I thought I'd put it up here because it might be helpful to someone who reads my blog, and also because I would be interested in any feedback about how I might be able to make it more clear. So, here it is:

How Can I Have Eternal Life?
Today, right now, you can not only know how to receive eternal life, but you can actually receive it and be assured of your eternal destiny. The Lord Jesus, while He was on earth, said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). This was true when He spoke it, and is still a true statement today. Please read on to learn what it means to believe in Jesus and how you can know that you have everlasting (or eternal) life.
God created all of us as spiritual beings who will exist forever. He created us with the ability to think and feel, to know Him, and to make choices for ourselves. Unfortunately, our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, chose to sin against God and became separated from Him. They passed on to their children a sinful, disobedient nature which continues with us to this day. That’s why the Bible says of us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It also says that the wages of sin, or what one gets because of his sin, is “death” (Romans 6:23). In the Bible, death means more than simply the body ceasing to function. It also refers to spiritual death, one’s spirit being separated from God. So all have sinned, and all are therefore cut off from God.
But the good news is that God didn’t leave us in this condition. In the Bible, in the gospel of John, chapter three, verse sixteen (John 3:16), it says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Jesus, the Son of God, was fully God but became a man. God gave Him to die on a Roman cross to pay the penalty for our sins so that all who believe in Him would not die and go to hell, but rather would enjoy eternal life together with Him. Jesus not only died on the cross for our sins, but three days later He rose from the dead and later returned to heaven. Jesus is alive and fully able to give eternal life to all who believe in Him.
You may have heard that there are many things that a person must do in order to have their sins forgiven and live with God forever, like getting baptized or attending church, or you may have thought that if you just tried to be reasonably good, you would probably be alright. Maybe you have thought there is no way a person could know for sure how to have eternal life, but the Bible makes it clear that you can know. The Bible tells us that all who believe in Jesus have eternal life.
So what does it mean to believe in Jesus? To believe in Jesus means more than simply believing that He exists or even that He is God, which, of course, He is. In the Bible, believing in Jesus means believing, or trusting, in Him to do what He has promised, which is to freely give you eternal life. The Lord Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Do you believe what He said? If you do, then you have believed in Him and have received eternal life.
One other thing should be said about eternal life: just like it sounds, eternal life lasts forever. Once you have received it, you belong to God and can never lose the free gift which He has given you. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28). Hopefully, receiving eternal life will be the first step in a life-long adventure for you of learning more about the Lord Jesus and following Him. But the most important and most foundational thing in life is to know that He has saved you (see Ephesians 2:8-9) and given you eternal life.
If this article has helped you to see how you could have eternal life and you have believed in Jesus, please leave a comment below to let us know. If you have further questions or would like to talk to someone about what you have read, also please leave us a comment so we can talk further. We would love to get in touch with you and help you to learn more about the Lord Jesus through His word, the Bible.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How is Fruit Produced in Our Lives?

First of all, let me say to those few people out there who read this blog, the Grace Evangelical Society Conference in Texas was excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed the speakers and the fellowship and came home very encouraged to pursue the ideas I have had regarding church planting in our home area. I also thought that it is high time I got back to writing some things for the blog, and right now would like to continue at least a little bit more with the topic of fruit in the life of the believer.

I spent the last three posts (a long time ago) talking about the fact that “fruit,” defined as good works and/or godly character, is not automatic in the lives of believers. Nor should fruit be used as a tool for gaining assurance of eternal life. We can have assurance that we posses eternal life simply because of the promises the Lord Jesus has made to us, not because of anything we see or don’t see in our own imperfect lives. But now I would like to talk briefly about how fruit is produced in our lives.

Probably the most well-know passage dealing with fruit is Galatians 5:16-23, which contrasts the “works of the flesh” with the “fruit of the Spirit.” It is clear in verse 16 that the following “fruit of the Spirit” is produced in the lives of those who “walk in the Spirit,” rather than being produced automatically in all believers. So what does it mean to walk in the Spirit? I don’t pretend to have everything figured out about walking in the Spirit and how the Holy Spirit produces fruit in our lives, but it seems clear to me that a parallel passage to Galatians 5:16 is Romans 8:4-5, which uses almost identical language to the Galatians passage and talks about walking “according to the Spirit” rather than “according to the flesh.” In verse 5 specifically, more information on what this means is given when it says that those who live according to the flesh “set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Sprit, the things of the Spirit.” This tells us that which sphere one lives in is determined largely by where one’s mind is set. Unbelievers are “in the flesh” (Rom 8:8) and cannot leave that sphere as long as they are unregenerate, but believers have the choice to either set their minds on the things of the flesh or on the things of the Spirit. A believer who focuses his mind on God’s word and spiritual things will find himself more and more making the choice to live in obedience to God’s word as it is applied to his life by the indwelling Holy Spirit. On the other hand, a believer who sets his mind on fleshly, or sinful and worldly things, will find his life being dominated by the flesh, that part of him which desires to sin.

God has commanded each of us to walk in the Spirit, and it is vitally important that we do so. One way we can do that is to consciously choose to fill our minds with the things of the Spirit. I believe this refers primarily to meditating on God and His word, and how it applies to our lives. We who understand that the fruit of the Spirit is not automatically produced in the lives of all “true” believers should in no way let that make us lazy or unconcerned about seeing it produced in our lives. Rather, we should be the first to make a priority of walking in the Spirit, since we know that it is only as we do that, that we will grow and experience the fruit which God wants us to experience.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


FYI- For Y'alls'Info

I just wanted to let anyone who keeps up with this blog know that though I intend to keep up the discussion about fruit and whatever else comes up in the future, I am going to need to pause for a couple of weeks as I prepare for a workshop and plenary session at the GES conference. I want to try and make sure the time I have there is well used and is a blessing to those in attendance, and so have realized I need to make that a priority for the next couple of weeks until I am done getting the messages ready. And if you think of it, please pray that not only those two sessions, but the whole GES conference would be a time of learning and growing.

I look forward to continuing our discussions in a little while.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

How Do You Know If It's Fruit?

In my last post, I discussed the fact that where Jesus spoke of being able to identify false prophets (not false believers) by their fruits, the context doesn’t point to fruit meaning actions at all, but rather to the words that these people speak. However, I do think that it is valid to refer to characteristics or changes in one’s life as fruit, since there are passages in the Bible which do use the word fruit in that way, such as Galatians 5:22-23, which refers to the fruit of the Spirit, or the things which the Spirit produces in the lives of those who live under His influence. With that in mind I want to discuss in this post a basic thought which I have had about fruit in the life of a believer. That thought is this: Many people believe that by looking at fruit in their lives, they can verify that they are children of God, but in reality, one can only know that positive things which he sees in his life are fruit produced by the Spirit of God if he already knows beyond a doubt that he is God’s child.

Think about this with me for a moment. If a young believer who used to have a problem with a particular sin shows progress in that area of his life, we look at that and call it fruit, and hopefully it is. At the same time, though, we also know that it is possible for an unregenerate person to make positive changes in his life. For instance, two individuals could both struggle with drinking, and could both get sober at the same time. In one of their lives, this change might be the result of him responding to the Holy Spirit, and in the other one’s life, it might be the result of his decision to get help and stop drinking, or because of his new devotion to a false religion. So the same type of change might be fruit in one person’s life, and not in the other’s. Surely this principal is true in my own life as well. Unless I know objectively, because of the promises in God’s word, that I have eternal life, no positive change in my life could possibly give me assurance, because I would never know for sure that the change was accomplished by God and not by my own efforts.

The teaching that fruit will always be produced in the lives of true believers is a feature of Calvinistic theology, and the same Calvinists who teach it will also say that it is possible for someone who is not truly saved to have the same visible signs in their lives and to think that they are produced by God, even though they aren't. So even the theological system which brought us the teaching that fruit leads to assurance shows that it is logically impossible to really gain assurance of salvation by looking at one’s works, or the “fruit” in his life.

How, then, can a person know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has eternal life? Simply by believing what the Lord Jesus has told us when He said, “Whoever believes in Me has eternal life.” I know that I have believed in Jesus, therefore I know that His promise applies to me. I have entrusted my eternal destiny to Him, and He has given me eternal life. When there is fruit in my life, it is evidence that I am responding to His work in my life, and when there is a lack of fruit, it shows that I am not responding properly to Him, but either way I rest my eternal destiny and my assurance of it simply on the promises in God’s word.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

You Will Know Them By Their Fruits

Here is a brief follow-up to one of the thoughts in my last post about faith and fruit:

Many Christians think that Jesus taught that we can tell whether people are truly believers or not by looking at their "fruit." Actually, this is not what Jesus said. Jesus said that false prophets, not false believers, can be told by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-16). Also, in the context of Matthew 7, it is clear that fruits does not refer to good or bad deeds, because in verse 15 Jesus said that these false prophets would come in sheep's clothing. In order for that to be true, they must outwardly look like true prophets. This would primarily refer, not to their physical appearance, but to their actions.

Even using basic logic, it should be clear that a false prophet may live an outwardly moral life. The fruit by which false prophets may be identified is the fruit of their mouths, or what they teach. In fact, in the book of Luke, it is quite clear that this is what Jesus meant by referring to "fruits." In Luke 6:44 Jesus says that every tree is know by its fruit. Then in Luke 6:45 he interprets this figurative language by saying that what people say indicates what is in their hearts. So, a false prophet or false teacher can be identified, not by his outward morality or lack thereof, but by whether what he says lines up with God's word.

Jesus didn't talk about knowing true or false believers by their fruits at all, but even if we did want to apply what He said about false prophets to trying to ascertain whether someone is a believer, we would have to evaluate people's spiritual condition by what they say, not by whether or not we see good works in their lives. If a person can clearly state that he is going to spend eternity with God because he has believed in Jesus, there is no reason to question that, even if his life is lacking in some areas. On the other hand, if a person is unclear as to whether he will make it to heaven, or has his trust in anything besides Jesus to get him there, we may validly conclude him to be either unsaved or saved but subsequently confused, no matter how good of a life he lives.

More on faith and fruit in a while, in the meantime, any thoughts on this?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Faith, Fruit and Fad Diets

Being that it is early in the New Year, many people out there have bought diet books and are a few days into a new diet program. I myself have, in the past, followed a couple of different diet plans, sometimes to lose a little weight myself or to try and gain more energy, other times to be a “diet buddy” for my wife if she was on one (By the way, my wife tells me that a skinny spouse does not make the best dieting buddy). Not only have I been on a few diets, I’ve read a few diet books, and one thing I’ve noticed is that all of them seem to promise, not only weight loss, but also improved energy levels and a greater quality of life in general. Some of them even go into great detail about how much energy and hunger, or lack thereof, you should be experiencing at each stage of the diet. Of course, the problem is, not every diet plan delivers what it promises. If I am following a diet program and it says I should be feeling unbounded energy, and I am not, what can I conclude? Normally, I have concluded that the diet in question made greater claims for itself than were realistic. In other words, I decided that particular diet didn’t work.

Unfortunately, many people understand the Bible to be making claims much like some diet books. Their understanding of the fact that the Bible says that all who are in Christ are new creatures and of what Jesus meant when He said “You will know them by their fruits” is that if you have truly believed, a certain amount of “fruit” in your life is guaranteed. Now, I don’t think that the Bible actually teaches that fruit is inevitable in the lives of every believer, but I know that many people do. The problem is, what happens when it doesn’t work? What happens to the person who has been told that if he will only believe in Jesus or “give his life to Jesus,” or whatever the case may be, he will no longer be able to habitually sin but will have the fruit of the Spirit in his life, but then who does continue to have problems with sin or doesn’t see the fruit of the Spirit in his life? Unless that person studies the Bible and concludes that what he has been taught is incorrect, he only has two options as far as I can see. One option is to conclude, like with a diet program that doesn’t deliver all that it claims, that the Bible doesn’t work. The other is to conclude that he hasn’t really been following the program correctly. Maybe he didn’t really believe in the right way. Maybe it was only “head faith” and not heart faith. Either way, this person will be plagued with uncertainty, either about the reliability of the Bible, or about whether or not he is really saved.

The reality is, there are many people who have believed in Jesus but who don’t evidence the fruit of the Spirit. There are also many regenerate people, in fact I believe all of them, who still struggle with sin. Many, indeed, sin often enough that their sin might be called “habitual.” However, I don’t believe this runs counter to what the Bible actually teaches. The Bible is not like a diet program that doesn’t live up to its claims, it is just that many people misunderstand what it says in this area of fruit. I believe that the Bible teaches that the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is produced only when we walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:18), and not that all believers do that. When Jesus said “you will know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:16), he was speaking of identifying false teachers, not true or false believers. Incidentally, I believe He was talking about identifying them by what they say, not necessarily by how they act, but more on that later. I intended to put this post out there to generate some thought, and will try to follow it up later with some thoughts about specific verses dealing with fruit and whether it is inevitable in the life of every believer.