Communicating the Gospel: Speaking understandably

“For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?” 1 Corinthians  14:8

trumpet

I don’t profess to be the expert on this subject but I’m sure you will agree its pretty serious and it requires quite a bit of thought. In a previous generation, if an army didn’t get the correct trumpet signal they wouldn’t be ready to fight, confusion would reign and perhaps a defeat would occur. How much more serious is this home-truth in how we spread the gospel of Christ to those who don’t know it?  If we don’t tell the people clearly they may perish forever.

Many of us have sat in Gospel meetings (“Evangelistic Services”) which have started with a speaker reading a difficult portion and failing to explain anything remotely akin to the gospel for the rest of the message, thus leaving the non-Christian (and sometimes well-read Christians) scratching their heads, and no more enlightened.

Think of the words of the wise Preacher of Ecclesiastes.

And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs.
The Preacher sought to find acceptable words; and what was written was upright—words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd.  Ecclesiastes 12:9-11

It ill-becomes us to ignore how we present the message of Christ. We should remember that when the Lord spoke the “common (ordinary) people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:47) that is, no doubt, partly because He used language and illustrations that they connected to.

He spoke to people from a rural background, so his illustrations were often about nature such as: seeds, birds, lilies, foxes, or sheep. Or about agriculture such as: farmers, shepherds, sowing, reaping or vineyards. The illustrations and parables were of a rustic simplicity and yet with a deep and profound moral or spiritual meaning. He connected with His audience by using language and illustrations that they could relate to.

He spoke words of tenderness, that were true to the need at hand. We love to dwell on the servant songs of Isaiah, which relate to the Messiah, and so we listen in as he says ”  “The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary” (Isaiah 50:4). He connected with His audience because He had spent time before His God and Father, and so he related to their specific need. The Lord GOD gave Him (in that human sense), the tongue of the instructed One. He had a word from heaven just to the need of the audience – whether that was one person sitting at a well or five thousand sitting in a wilderness. He had a word in season for the weary. Oh, that I might be the same! Let us pray that the Lord gives us a ready tongue – He who formed the mouth can certainly help us in this area.

The Lord also approached each situation with each audience thinking about the need of the audience. He often “answered the questioner rather than the question” (Ravi Zacharias). He connected with His audience because he wasn’t sidetracked by the smoke-screen that they put up.

Think of John 3 and John 4 for a moment.

In John 3, Nicodemus comes to Christ speaking as a teacher to a teacher. “Rabbi  we know..” (John 3:1) He presents the Lord Jesus with his knowledge, but the Lord answers him not according to his knowledge but according to his need.  Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” The Lord, in effect says, you can have all the religion that you like, but if you haven’t been born again it will not matter how you dress it up. Flatter didn’t stop Him from telling the truth, and the straight truth at that. Religion never saved a man yet.

The Lord approaches the woman  at the well in a different way (John 4). She was, it appears, dissatisfied (5 husbands and 1 not a husband!), so the Lord speaks about water that can satisfy forever.  He gently leads her to admit her sinfulness and unfolds who He is to her. How beautiful, but also how different to the previous chapter.

So the Lord Jesus, the true “Prince of Preachers”, connected with His audience because he spoke to their heart’s condition, and wasn’t distracted by other side-issues. 

May the Lord help us to try, by his grace, to be like our Lord. Bringing the profound truths of the gospel into straight-forward illustrations, and understandable words. Spending time before our Father asking Him for “the tongue of the instructed”. So that, taking each situation as we find it, we might not be blinded by the smoke-screen that people put up, but rather might have the word, from His word, for their heart’s condition.

 

Communicating the Gospel: Sin is not just “a mistake”

Sometimes the Christian Gospel can be presented like this: “Everybody makes mistakes in their lives, we all need forgiveness…”.

This, I submit to you, while often coming out of the best of motives, is not an accurate presentation of the doctrine of sin from the Bible.

Oxford online dictionaries gives a definition of a mistake as “an act or judgement that is misguided or wrong” and you will agree that by this definition sin is certainly a mistake. But it is not just a mistake. If we think it is merely a mistake, we begin to trivalize sin. 

The Scriptures present “sin” in a far blacker light than that. People must understand that they are not going to hell because they make “some mistakes” but because their actions are rebellious acts of war against a God who is infinitely pure and good. No less.

John writes “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4 ESV, RV). W.E. Vine helpfully writes “This definition of sin sets forth its essential character as the rejection of the law, or will, of God and the substitution of the will of self.”

Uprising_fist

In other words, “sin is rebellion”. Sin is an act of our rebellious will. It begins in a rebel heart and mind which is hostile to God (Romans 8:7), which instructs our body to substitute ourselves, our senses or our ideas for God. We are by nature (unless redeemed) slaves to this principle of sin. It affects our intellect, emotions and will and produces rotten fruit (sinful actions) in our lives.

So we are, by nature: treacherous, self-willed sinners, in slavery to sin  leading to rebellious, God-dishonouring actions and a character of life which brands us as enemies of a God (Romans 5:10) who alone has ultimate authority in the universe. AT WAR WITH GOD!

Putting it bluntly. Every sin is a refusal of God (Genesis 3:6). Every sin is a manifestation of our will as unbroken before God. Every sin is trying to tear God from his throne (Ps 51:4). Every sin is an affront to God (Ps 50:21). Every sin (unless forgiven) is treasuring up wrath against a day of wrath (Romans 2:5). Every sin (unless forgiven) will be judged completely and eternally by a sin-hating, holy and just God, who keeps a complete record of each and every one of them (Romans 2:6; Rev 20:12; Rev 21:8).

Sin is not merely a mistake we make, it is “rebellion-in-action”. A shaking of our fist at God.

This is why we need the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is why we, as Christians, preach Him:

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.”  1 John 3:4-5 ESV

We didn’t need a handyman to “fix our mistakes” rather we needed a Saviour to take away our sins; to save us from ourselves, yes, to redeem and reconcile us to God, and “in Him there is no sin”.

May the Lord help us to communicate to others the true awfulness of sin. So that they may seek the Saviour.

 

That old cat-killer, ‘Curiosity’

Curiosity killed the cat

Most of us have probably heard the old adage “Curiosity killed the cat”, but I submit to you that it has done more damage than that. I am convinced that it has killed quite a few humans as well.

It has also been, I suggest,  destructive in the spiritual life of believers. Perhaps there was a hint of curiosity even in of the well known parable of the Prodigal son, as he leaves for that far off land: to waste his substance in riotous living. (Luke 15)

If you, like I, were born with a inquiring mind, that curiosity may drive you in directions you never thought possible. It can be quite an explosive cocktail when mixed with the quick answers the internet provides.

Think of it. How do you respond when a headline flashes up on the webpage for something you are just curious about? Do you click it and head down a blind alley, not knowing what might come up next? I’m sure we have all been guilty of this at one time or another.

I suggest that we try not to make a habit of it, for curiosity can kill. Every corner on the internet may just have some hidden danger around it. We must remember that a 5 second look at something impure can take 20 years to erase. Worse, it can start a chain reaction which can lead ultimately to spiritual disaster.

How can we combat it? Here are some suggestions that I intend to try to follow.

1. Limit yourself – Can you limit yourself to (say) an hour a day on the internet? Believe it or not, the world revolved, the birds sang, and people lived for God before the internet was created 20-odd years ago!

2. Have a Purpose – Try to have a useful purpose when on the net. Surfing is  relaxing but it can also be stupefying, helping your guard to drop and making susceptible to things that normally you would steer clear of.

3. Quick Confession – If you do happen to stumble across something smutty or unclean, take yourself to the Lord to confess and forsake it. Even spend time reading His word to cleanse your mind.

4. Remember what God has made you, and to whom your eyes belong to. (1)

– “You are bought with a price” 1 Cor 6:20

– “Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:25-27

5. Remember that everyone of us has the flesh within, i.e. high explosive waiting for a fiery dart, therefore put on the whole armour of God (Ephesians 6:13-18)

6. Find an accountability partner and set up accountability software such as accountable2you.

Curiosity can start innocently enough,  but please remember, like the metaphorical cat, you don’t know what’s around the corner.

 

(1) A recommended book on these issues “Look Straight Ahead” – Sam Thorpe Jr, Everyday Publications”  is found at the following link

https://www.ecsministries.org/367975.ihtml

 

 

 

 

 

Adding up of days…

When I was just saved I was introduced to the power of example; a truly wonderful thing.

People like Jim Elliot, martyred missionary to Ecuador. What an example of heroic faith in God, and what an army of missionaries and servants of God have been profoundly influenced by the faith and sacrifice of this one man.

Another book which profoundly moved me was “The Triumph of John and Betty Stam”, the story of a martyred couple who give their all for the Lord in China.

John and Betty Stam photograph

Recommended reading!

I then realized that Lord calls many people to simply live for him consistent, God-honouring lives. I found inscribed in the insert page of my Dad’s old Bible these words:

“If He died for me, the least I can do is live for Him”

How profoundly true.

Let’s live for Him as never before. Let’s obey every truth of His Word!

“A noble life is not a blaze
Of sudden glory won,
But just an adding up of days
In which God’s will is done.”

(Poem quoted from “One day at a Time”: William MacDonald)

Reproach is Riches – in God’s currency

moses1

 

Money, money, money… screams the world! And we Christians sometimes agree. “If only I had…” I’ve caught myself whispering. But what does God think of it all?

“By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.” Hebrews 11:25-27 NKJV

Which wealth do we really want? I find as I write this, these words from Hebrews challenge my very concept of wealth.

Think of the status of Moses. ‘Prince of Egypt’, with the world at his finger tips and everything rosy in the garden. Perhaps even the next in line to the throne of Egypt. “When he came of age..” talk about growing up! “He refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter”. He saw his destiny among the current ‘downtroddens’ of society, rather than be a prince. He preferred to be a slave with a clear conscience than a king without one.

Where does this find me? Am I prepared to forgo the promotion, the big job, or the big house, just so that I can do God’s will and associate with God’s people. Rest assured, the next 20 years aren’t likely to be easy for evangelical Christians in the Western Secular World.

“Bow to our dictates… or else get out” has already beenheard as a distant thunderclap in the higher echelons of society and in the corridors of power. A storm is brewing and getting ever closer. Am I prepared to give up the cherished position for a reproached position – and realize its wealth?

Moses did! It involved suffering and reproach, but it also involved a place in eternal blessedness, with his name and fame forever honoured in God’s eternal word.  It was worth it, to find the true riches.

What about us? Someone has said “We make our decisions, and our decisions make us” – that was certainly true with Moses.

 

Celebrate Abortion?

images (2)

I’m just an ordinary guy. Well, as ordinary as a Christian is. I don’t make waves every time an issue comes up that is against my beliefs. I usually just let it go and keep myself apart from it. You probably won’t find me with a placard petitioning the government very often. But I do hope you know that my silence is not acquiescence. Which brings me to my point.

I was listening to a mainstream radio station yesterday, when the presenter introduced the story of a young couple who were having a baby. In fact, the girl decided not to “keep the baby” i.e. she was going for an abortion. They then decided that they would have the video cameras in at the abortion and the girl spoke of it as a “birth-like” experience. In fact, the vibes were that having an abortion was positively liberating! Something to be celebrated!

May I point out one radical difference between a birth and an abortion, a difference which is surely blindingly obvious? In the one we kill “the baby” (using the presenter’s terminology) but in the other we give birth to “the baby”.

The stock and trade answer pro-life people get is “You are repressive to women! And how dare you interfere with what a woman does to her body?” And, of course, it is the media’s delight to demonize any who are pro-life as living in the dark ages, and also as ‘cruel and vindictive women-haters’.

So are we ‘cruel and vindictive women haters’? Because we believe in the protection of unborn babies in the womb of their mothers? Because we believe that the safest place in the world should be the womb? Because we believe that life is sacred? Or because we believe that a “trip down the birth canal” doesn’t change moral status?

My response is a flat denial on the first count, I don’t hate women – but I do hate abortion. It was “Christian culture” that liberated women from much of the enslaving that they received in pagan culture. It was “Christian culture” which sowed the seeds for a woman being recognised as equal but different.

The second charge is (usually couched an expression of total outrage) – that to have this belief is “violating a woman’s free choice”.

It is a mother’s choice to have children – granted.  But should we allow mothers to “put their children down” when they don’t want them? Am I “anti-mother” because I don’t think its a mother’s right to take a knife to her two year old toddler? This charge is simply not true.

Oh, and as for the woman having the right to do what she wants with her body, you have a long way to prove that the baby is her body, because DNA proves that it is a separate entity. It is clearly non-self.

There are, no doubt, many other emotive questions that can be raised in this area. We have many questions as a society which we much answer. How far down the road of “relative morality” do we really want to travel? As a Christian, I believe in absolute morality, i.e. I believe that there are things that are just plain wrong (irrespective of culture or time) and that this is one of them.

Today, as I write this in the UK about 500 lives will be lost, because of abortion. In Nazi Germany the Jews were classified as “untermenshen” meaning “sub-human”. Having redesignated them as such they felt that they could kill them at will. In 21st Century western civiliation we are not so far away with the unborn. Call them ’embryoes’ or ‘foetuses’ don’t call them babies or children, and having “de-personalized” them, we feel a bit less bad about getting rid of them. Shame on us.

If as a society we are going to celebrate abortion, count me out…

Andrew

www.180movie.com