What you save them with, you save them to

I remember James Boice often saying, “What you save them with, you save them to.” His point was that any evangelism that is not centered on Christ’s atoning work and its biblically-defined results, leaves our “converts” still alienated from God. People “saved” with sentimental appeals or therapeutic promises may join our church, joyfully regard themselves as Christians and embrace our evangelical sub-culture, and even have beneficial changes in their lives. But until they confess their sins and trust the cross of Christ, the wrath of God remains on them. There is but one way to God, and the one gospel He has provided for true evangelism is marked red with the shed blood of Christ.
Rick Phillips

As much as that is a skeptical view of contemporary approaches to evangelism (seeker-friendly methods), I think there is some truth in James Boice’s words. I read the same words on some lecture notes online saying “Theology determines methodology; worship determines witness.” We cannot dissect the methods from the goal. 

Anecdotally, this quote might not seem true but it is worth a thought. It is often the ones who quietly leave or get left behind that slip our minds.

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Peace time mentality

“The word of the Lord came to me: “Take note, son of man, the house of Israel is saying, ‘The vision that he sees is for distant days; he is prophesying about the far future.’ Therefore say to them, “This is what the sovereign Lord says: None of my words will be delayed any longer! The word I speak will come to pass, declares the sovereign Lord.’”
Ezekiel 12:26-28

“This is because they have led my people astray saying, “All is well,” when things are not well. When anyone builds a wall without mortar, they coat it with whitewash. Tell the ones who coat it with whitewash that it will fall. When there is a deluge of rain, hailstones will fall and a violent wind will break out. When the wall has collapsed, people will ask you, “Where is the whitewash you coated it with?”
Ezekiel 13:10-12

The Israelites lived in a time of peace and prosperity. No war, no famine, no drought to worry about. They built houses, had children, farmed the land and bred their life stock. They did all the normal things that one would do in life. But all this time the Word of the Lord had been forgotten and pushed aside. They were pre-occupied with the good and comfortable life.

Ezekiel comes to the scene and prophesies their exile and destruction, yet they thought that it was the far future and didn’t concern them. They turned to the prophets who declared “all is well”; after all, who can deny that all is well? It certainly looks well. Anyone who thought otherwise was weird. Ezekiel was certainly weird, what in the word was he doing digging holes in the walls and packing up his stuff (Ezekiel 12:3-11)? Yet their doom was looming. What God had promised in the Law (Deuteronomy 30:15-20), He was sure to deliver.

This comfortable, peace-time mentality seeps in unknowingly. Our life is good, our needs are met, everything is at peace. There is a war going on in our backyard, right at our door step, yet we do not see. When someone brings it to our attention, we turn away and dismiss them. We find prophets, teachers and preacher who tell us that “all is well” and “Christ is coming, but not in our generation” (2 Peter 3:1-13)! The worst part of it all is that we lose the sense of urgency and gravity in God’s commands. We water His words down to our level of comfort and our pace of life.

Let’s rewrite the Great Commission and see what it looks like:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. If you have the time and money go and make disciples of the people in your backyard, bringing them to church in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to choose bits and pieces of Christianity that sound positive, fits the current culture and is tolerable from what I have given you options for. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age to give you great things like a big house, a nice car, a club membership and a rewarding career.”

Time to wake up, the world is at war and we stand at the frontline.

The need of the hour is global wartime mentality. I say “wartime” because life is war (1 Timothy 6:12; Ephesians 6:10ff; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). I say “global” because “the field is the world” (Matthew 13:38).
John Piper

Whatever, anyone and every way

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God – even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

This is the summary of Paul’s teaching about a believer’s freedoms (rights) and constraints. Although the issues pertain to food sacrificed to idols, idol feasts and food in general, the principles remain the same.

  • Everything that we do, no matter how neutral the action is, needs to glorify God. Food in itself is neutral, it doesn’t bring us closer or further from Him (1 Corinthians 8:8), but if eating it causes a weaker brother/sister to stumble, then it isn’t glorifying to God (1 Corinthians 8:9, 12-13).
  • In Christ, we have freedom. That means we no longer live under the Law, instead we enjoy living in grace. Whatever is neutral (not sin by commission or omission) is open to our enjoyment. Yet, we do not indulge in this right to enjoy our freedom. Instead, we position ourselves as servants of others (1 Corinthians 9:19), giving up even the most basic of our rights so that others might be saved (1 Corinthians 9:12). Who are the “others”? It’s simply every and any one – Jews, Gentiles, weaker brothers/sisters and even the church of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:20-22, 10:32; our witness is strong in unity, John 17:20-23). And we endure this, Paul make no illusions that this is a painful process (1 Corinthians 9:27). This doesn’t mean that we commit sin to reach out of course, but in times when we are placed in difficult positions, God is with us (1 Corinthians 10:8-9, 13-22).
  • How far do we go to seek the good of others? How far do we go to serve them? As far as their freedom will take them (1 Corinthians 10:28-29) if they are involved. No freedom or right of ours stands before the conscience of others (1 Corinthians 10:24). Yet God is gracious, the concession for us is that we are free to indulge where others are not involved (1 Corinthians 10:25-27, 30).

These words cast a wide net on the things we do, the people we consider and the lengths we go in our daily walk with God. It seems like an impossible task, but still Paul says “follow”.

This task is important because brings salvation, the ultimate benefit for any man. It is our witness for Christ. Just as it was Christ’s witness and Apostle Paul’s witness, it is our witness. By doing so, we make ourselves walking and living pieces of evidence that Christ is real.

εὐαγγέλιον

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Matthew 9:35-38

We all are familiar with what is required of us with regards to evangelism: a presentation of the gospel, often verbal and a call for acceptance. We are told that if you present the gospel, you’ve done your bit. If they decline, its not your fault, you’re responsible for bringing the good news not compelling belief. Afterall, Jesus said that the harvest is ready, all we need to do is go out and grab people into the Kingdom. Family, friends, strangers, it doesn’t matter who it is, as long as they’ve been presented the gospel.

What is wrong with this picture? The problem is that evangelism has fallen victim to our everything instant culture. Present the gospel, give the call, and wham-bam, you’re done! Next please! Better still, hit them up all at once in a huge evangelistic meeting! No slow oven roasted prayer-glazed with years of sowing nonsense, give me quick microwave straight from the frozen pack evangelism.

The harvest is ready, but that doesn’t mean we can be haphazard about the way we evangelise. Good evangelism needs to be birthed from prayer, sowing, witnessing and showing love. There is so much more to evangelism than just wham-bam gospel in your face and expect people to accept Christ. In this day and age of subjective truth, no one really cares for what we believe in if it doesn’t mean anything to them. The only way to break subjective truth is to bring meaning into truth – meta-truth.

Meta-truth is a kinda of quality in the statement you are making; it is the thing that makes the truth matter. “Jesus is God” has no meaning to an unbeliever but is filled with meaning to a believer, because that statement (generally) matters much more to a believer than an unbeliever. At the same time, a statement like that might matter very much to a militant atheist/agnostic like Richard Dawkins, who is strongly against the Judeo-Christian belief. We need to make the gospel matter (in the right way) before we present it, not by hellfire and brimstone preaching but with love.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
John C. Maxwell

Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.
Francis of Assisi

In the same way that we care much about how our close friends share our perspectives/opinions but couldn’t care less about a stranger’s perspectives/opinions, we can affect how our truths are viewed by others. The truth of Christ in us means nothing to others if we mean nothing to others. It is not our place to convict, but I believe we can play a part.

If we want to see our friends saved, we need to mean something to them as they mean something to us. I have often heard of families who have come to Christ after seeing a change in a family member’s attitude, behaviour or character after receiving Christ. That family member has made Christ mean something to the rest of the family. To the other family members, Christ once meant nothing, now carried the power to transform and improve. There is a certain quality to the truth of Christ.

We are preaching the gospel at all times, in every deed and action to each and every person, we are forming in their heads a picture of Christ. Lets make it matter even before the gospel is presented.

THE WORLD’S BIBLE

Christ has no hands but our hands
to do His work today.
He has no feet but our feet
to lead men in His way.
He has no tongue but our tongues
to tell men how He died.
He has no help but our help
to bring them to His side.

We are the only Bible
the careless world will read.
We are the sinner’s Gospel;
we are the scoffer’s creed.

We are the Lord’s last message
given in deed and word.
What if the type is crooked?
What if the print is blurred?

What if our hands are busy
with other work than His?
What if our feet are walking
where sin’s allurement is?

What if our tongues are speaking
of things His lips would spurn?
How can we hope to help Him
and hasten His return?

To hasten our Lord’s return
we truly need much power.
So let us all be Spirit-filled,
and awaiting Him each hour.

In an hour that we think not,
He said He should appear;
Then let us walk in holiness,
And meet Him with a cheer.

By A.J.F. and A.O.S.