“Troubleshooting Evangelism”

We’ve all been there… Trying to work on the computer, but troubles arise. You can’t find the right button to click or perhaps you even end up with a blue screen telling you there is an error. What now? Most of us go into “frustration mode”, followed by a strong desire to give up and use a typewriter. But eventually, we must troubleshoot the problem, calling a support person or looking online for the possible fixes. Hopefully, you find the solution and can complete the original task. Similarly, Christians know that their task is to share their faith with others; however, we tend to run into a few problems along the way. Should we give up? No, we should do some troubleshooting and find a solution!

What is the biggest problem Christians have when it comes to evangelism? Fear. I’m not talking about horror movie type of fear. No, I’m talking about the “How will I be perceived?”, “What if I say the wrong thing?”, “What if I mess up?” kind of fear. Many Christians who have attended church for years, who truly desire to share their faith, are simply paralyzed by this type of fear. And I get it. In fact, I deal with it. There are many times when I find myself compelled to share the gospel, yet I just can’t muster up the courage to do so. Why is this? I want to share my faith, I want to point lost and suffering souls to Jesus, I want to do what Jesus has called His people to do, but at times I still find myself lacking the resolve to speak. This is a big problem indeed.

Troubleshooting Step #1: Who Am I Doing This For?
“What if they think I’m a crazy religious fanatic?” One of our main areas of fear has to do with how other people might see us. We don’t want to be one of “those people.” Yes, we go to church and would not deny being a Christian if asked, but actually telling other people about Jesus could really make us look silly. That’s the point. Christians will look foolish to the world. Yes, Christians will be mocked in this world, yet we continue to proclaim Christ and Him crucified because this is NOT about us! We share our faith for two primary reasons: 1) Doing so glorifies God, and 2) We desire for as many people as possible to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. “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) Do not allow the fear of how you will be perceived by this world stop you from sharing your faith; instead be bold knowing that what we do in evangelism has eternal consequences.

Troubleshooting Step #2: You Are Not Alone!
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) This familiar passage has become known as the Great Commission, the marching orders of the church. The task of making “disciples of all nations” seems so great, almost impossible. However, Jesus ends with a promise that makes all the difference in the world. Jesus says that while Christians are making disciples, He will be with us! Now that is a game-changer. We may feel fear as we begin to approach a conversation about the gospel, but remember that Jesus is right there with you. Imagine a child learning to ride a bike. The training wheels are off, the helmet is on, yet he is still afraid. However, he can pedal with ease when he knows that Dad is running right behind him, ready at any moment to catch him. Jesus will not let us fall.

Troubleshooting Step #3: God Saves People, Not Us!
“What if I say the wrong thing or I don’t have the right answers?” At the end of the day we can rest in the fact that God is the Savior (Isaiah 43:11), God is the one who grants repentance and faith (2 Timothy 2:25, Ephesians 2:8), and God’s word will always accomplish His purposes. (Isaiah 55:11) Christians are not to worry about results or winning arguments. We are simply called to be faithful in sharing our faith and let God be God. He is in control and His sovereign grace will continue to work, even through weak vessels such as ourselves.

Dear Christian, speak God’s word boldly. Don’t fear how the world looks at you, for Christ is with you. Remember that He is the Savior and He never fails! “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
facebook.com/MBCGlobe

“The Tools of Biblical Evangelism” Part 3

One lesson I learned as a kid was that if you were planning on going to the DMV (now the MVD), you better be prepared to wait. I remember going with my mom, and waiting forever for our number to be called. So as an adult, if I ever had to get a title transferred or get new plates, I knew that urgency is not a key word at the Motor Vehicle Division. However, there are many times when urgency is extremely important. For instance, at the ER, a head injury gets you seen more quickly than a broken bone. Although a head injury may not look bad on the outside, it can be much more serious in terms of damage. Similarly, as followers of Christ, there are many activities we participate in, but the task of evangelism (sharing our faith) is something that should done with a sense of urgency.

By “urgency” I don’t mean that we simply speed through a conversation about faith. No, I mean we must remember the reason behind that task of evangelism. According to the Bible, there comes a time in every person’s life when they will die. Shocking, right? However, the Bible goes on to tell us that after death comes judgment. (Hebrews 9:27) The Bible is clear: not every single person goes to heaven. It makes some people feel better at funerals to imagine all our loved ones “watching over us from heaven”, as if a person’s whole life, choices, and beliefs no longer mattered. Recently, famed scientist Stephen Hawking died. Hawking was a self-professed atheist who once stated, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” Yet, the moment the news went out of his death, social media was flooded with images of Stephen Hawking walking towards the clouds of heaven and leaving behind his now-unneeded wheelchair. Talk about a worldview clash.

Urgency in gospel proclamation means that followers of Christ must keep in mind that about 150,000 people on this planet die each day, and whether or not they believe in God, they will stand before Him. It doesn’t matter what we say we “believe”; some things exist and are true regardless of what we think about them. Don’t believe me? Say you don’t believe in gravity and then jump out of a plane without a parachute. That’ll make a believer out of you! The problem is, we’ve lost the idea of objective truth in our modern day. We’ve come to understand “truth” to be whatever we want it to be at any given time. However, ultimately, truth is what God says is truth. And God says death and judgment go hand in hand. We can practice self-deception, imagining everyone saved from the punishment of Hell, or we can do what God called us to do and be His ambassadors, calling people to be reconciled to God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

The reality of judgment doesn’t give us a picture of God being mean or cruel. Rather, judgment gives us a picture of God being holy, righteous, and just. You see, our problem is that God is love. (1 John 4:8) How is that a problem? If God is love, then God must punish that which is NOT love. True love cares about truth and justice. When people carry out heinous crimes, we call for justice. Whenever we perceive that an individual is guilty of a crime and yet they are able to go free without any consequences, there is public outcry. Why? Justice MUST be served. Similarly, God, being the greatest good, will be perfect in His judgment and punishment of sin. So every thought, word, and deed will be brought into account before our holy God. “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” (Luke 8:17) The only hope fallen mankind has, then, is in the finished work of Christ upon the cross. We have no goodness in us, so we must turn to the One who does, Jesus Christ. He is the one who was without sin and who willingly went to the cross to die as the substitute for His people. Gospel urgency means calling all people, at all times, to turn from sin and to turn to Christ.

Every day is a gift from God. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. Thousands of people wake up each day unaware they are living their last day on earth. The big question is, “Are you ready to die?” This is not intended to be a morbid question, but an urgent question coming from a place of love and concern. Dear Christian, hear my plea: do not let another day pass without telling your loved ones, your friends, your neighbors about the amazing, saving work of Jesus Christ. Urgency in evangelism means we do not put off sharing the gospel, because another day may never come. Charles Spurgeon once said, “If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” This is the urgency we must have!

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
facebook.com/MBCGlobe

“The Tools of Biblical Evangelism” Part 2

Balance is important. If you don’t believe me, ask a tightrope dancer, a gymnast, or an ice skater. If balance is not achieved, each of these athletes will end up on the ground. And what about a hot air balloon. No, hot air ballooning doesn’t take the same kind of balance as an athlete, yet it requires the ability to balance the temperature inside the balloon. The driver of a balloon has only two ways to control the ballon: first, by adding hot air, thus increasing the altitude. Or by opening the vent, which releases air and causes the balloon to drop. To properly control the balloon, the driver must be balanced in his application of adding or releasing hot air. If he were to only add more and more hot air, he could end up at a dangerous altitude where the air is too thin to breath. If he releases too much hot air too quickly, he might experience a crash landing.

Similarly, we must remain balanced when sharing our faith in Christ. We should use the law of God to reveal to an individual his or her sin (as I wrote about last week), yet doing so with grace. Balance is important. Last week, as I spoke about using the law as a tool in evangelism, I did so with fear and trembling. Not because it’s wrong (I think this is what God calls us to do) but because it can be (and has been) misused when not balanced with grace. This has caused lots of PR problems for the church throughout various parts of history. Zealous to proclaim the glory of God, many a preacher has stood bringing forth the fire and brimstone of God, while neglecting the grace found in Christ. This is to our shame. When our Lord Jesus took upon human flesh and entered into His own creation, He came full of grace and truth (John 1:14,17)

Therefore, following the example of Christ, we are to be gracious and loving as we fervently call people to repentance and faith. Jesus went out of his way to spend time with those whom society saw as the worst of the worst. “And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that [Jesus] was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” (Mark 2:16) Scoffing and mocking, the self-righteous, religious leaders of Jesus’ day missed the whole point of God’s law. Instead of being humbled by the holiness of God and His perfect standard of righteousness, they thought they could somehow live up to it. (Talk about self-delusion!) This in turn gave these “righteous” ones lots of ammunition to hurl at everyone they saw as sinners. Jesus amplifies this hypocrisy in His parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector who both go to the temple to pray. “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” Some prayer, huh? On the other hand, the tax collector prays, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Jesus ends the parable, “I tell you, [the tax collector] went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

Again, the point is that those who have found mercy and grace in Christ should reflect that same mercy and grace out into the world. So the idea that any church would not welcome and love sinners of all stripes is complete foolishness. Please don’t misunderstand, I am not saying that we embrace and encourage sin. No, the gospel brings about change in a person’s life as the Holy Spirit daily conforms us to the image of Christ. “Churches” who believe they are being loving and accepting by embracing certain sins that have become popular in the culture are actually the most dangerous. Why? Because they have given up the truth in exchange for a lie. (Romans 1:25) Remember what Jesus brought with Him? Grace and truth. This is where we are to remain balanced. We must share God’s law in order that we can see ourselves as we truly are, lost and in need of a savior. At the same time, we must do so remembering that we love people and desire that they too would come to experience the grace we have found in Christ. We are not to use the law as a hammer, as a means of making ourselves seem better than others. We are all sinners in need of grace.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) If you are honest with yourself, you will see yourself somewhere in that list, perhaps multiple times. However, when we come to Christ in repentance and faith we can continue reading that very passage with great joy! “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11) This, dear reader, is grace and truth beautifully balanced in Christ.

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
facebook.com/MBCGlobe

“The Tools of Biblical Evangelism” Part 1

Last week I encouraged followers of Christ to be intentional gospel witnesses. Specifically, to find opportunities to share our faith with others in our daily lives. We generally call this the task of evangelism. God has chosen to use His people as the vehicle through which the message of redemption goes forth. However, God does not leave us without tools to achieve His desired outcome. Today, we’ll focus on one of the tools God has given to us in order that we may be effective gospel witnesses: His law.

How is the law a part of sharing the ‘good news’? Isn’t the law something that condemns us? Yes, the law leaves us helpless because we are all guilty of breaking God’s law. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) It’s one thing for us to say, “Sure, no one’s perfect.” But quite another thing to look into the perfect law of God and see exactly what “falling short of the glory of God” looks like. To see that falling short doesn’t mean we’re almost there, and we just need God to give us a little push. Rather, it is to see we don’t come close at all, that we are without hope by ourselves.

Hmm, the law may seem like a “downer”, but that’s the whole point. We talk about the “good news” of Jesus Christ (and we should); however, the good news is only “good” when you first understand the bad news. “I have some good news and some bad news…” (As the listener, we really hope the good news outweighs the bad.) Likewise, sharing our faith is not complete if we do not tell the bad news, as well as the good. This is where the law comes in.

The Apostle Paul says, “If it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.” (Romans 7:7) Very simply, we understand what sin is by looking to God’s holy standard. Sin separates us from God and the law shows us what sin is. Some non-Christian groups, who claim to use the Bible, think that through following laws they can earn salvation. What’s wrong with that idea? It goes against what God has said is the purpose of the law! We were given the law so “that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.” (Romans 3:19) Following the law cannot save us! Paul continues, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) If we understand God’s law, yes, we will understand our moral and spiritual failings, but we will never become righteous enough; we will always fall short.

That’s some bad news… No matter how hard we try, no matter how “spiritual” we become, no matter how good we think we are, we will always fall short of the glory of God. “But wait! I’m so much better than a lot of so-called ‘Christians’ I know.” You may be, but other people are not the standard, God’s law is the standard. “Well, I’ve never done any of the really bad things like commit murder or cheat on my wife.” Actually, Jesus says that if you’ve hated someone you’ve already committed murder in your heart and if you’ve looked at another person with lustful thoughts you’ve already committed adultery in your heart. (Matthew 5:22, 28) “Fine, but I’ve probably kept more of the law than most people.” Even if you kept every single one of God’s laws except one, you still fall short. (James 2:10) You see, God’s law not only leaves us helpless, but it also shows us how truly holy and glorious God is. He cannot allow any amount of sin in His presence. Not because He is bad but because He is so good! We can’t possibly comprehend the goodness and purity of God in this life, but the law gives us a glimpse. God is so good, He must punish all sin .This is some bad news for all of us indeed.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5) Wow! Read that verse again. Do you see what God has done for us? God doesn’t wait for us to become “good people” before He begins working on us. No, God enters in while we are dead in our sins. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) We can sing “Amazing Grace” because God’s grace towards us in Christ is amazing when we’ve seen, by looking to God’s law, the depths of our sin and what our just punishment should be. However, we don’t receive that punishment when Christ becomes our Savior.

In order to be effective in evangelism, we must use the law as the tool God intends it to be. The law shows the problem and the gospel shows the solution. The law brings death while the gospel brings life. The law is bad news for sinful people, but the gospel is good news for those who come to Christ in faith. So dear saint, take hold of God’s law and show people that by ourselves we are lost… then point them to the cross.

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
facebook.com/MBCGlobe