the-apologist-e1414974402699

Defending the Faith

In the first few centuries of the church there came forth Christians who articulated a defense of Christianity against the pagan society of Rome; they were known as the apologist. Educated in Greek philosophy, they used commonalities to bridge the gap in understanding, showing that Christians worshiped the true and only God. At this early point in Christianity, many false assumptions where made about the new Christian faith. At first Rome believed they were just a branch or sect of Judaism and as such offered to them some relative peace in worship of their own God. Judaism had gained that exclusive privilege largely due to their history of rebellion to any suggested blasphemy and the Roman government had rather let them be instead of forcing the worship of other gods upon them as was the requirement of any other religion. However, when Rome realized the Jews hated the Christians it moved them into a new category of religion and that privilege was revoked. Soon rumors of indecency, cannibalism, and taboo rites begun to circulate from an ignorance of Christian doctrine and added to the fuel of persecution throughout the empire. The apologist rose to combat these false reports.

Early Apologist

The earliest known of these apologists was Aristides of Athens. Aristides contrasted other religions against the Christian faith to show how that it is superior to all others and is the only true religion.

Another early but unknown apologist wrote what is known as the Epistle of Diognetus. (click here to read earlier post on this work) Like Aristides, this work contrasted pagan idol worship and morals to present the Christian life as the only true way. He also used examples of persecution as evidence of this faith.

Athenagoras, a philosopher turned Christian, used his previous knowledge and understanding of Greek philosophy to articulate a defense Christianity against accusations of Atheism and for the foolishness of polytheism. He appeals to reason in his writing, “A Plea for the Christians” as can be seen here in part as he states, “it would be irrational for us to cease to believe in the Spirit from God, who moved the mouths of the prophets like musical instruments, and to give heed to mere human opinions.”

Another important apologist of this era was Theophilus, the bishop of Antioch. He also made strong use of Greek philosophy in his writing making cases such as in Chapter 4 of his book II, about the “absurd opinions of the philosophers concerning God.”

Justin Martyr

Finally the most well-known of the apologist was the skilled man named Justin Martyr. Justin wrote two apologies and another work called a “Dialogue with Trypho the Jew” that we still have access to today. Justin’s philosophical apologies took aim at the pagan high-society, the empire, Judaism and heretics who misrepresented the Christian faith. He drew a distinction between Christian morals and those of the pagans as well as pulled from prophesy to prove out the truth of God.

The Logos

Common between these early apologists was the doctrine of the Logos. The Logos (the Word) was a concept understood by Greeks and afforded the opportunity to convince them of the true Logos; Jesus Christ. The Logos represented wisdom in the Greek understanding and allowed the skilled apologist to connect the wisdom of the Greek philosophers and everything that was good in them to the incarnate Logos, Jesus Christ as illustrated in this passage from Athenagoras, “the universe has been created through His Logos, and set in order, and is kept in being–I have sufficiently demonstrated. [I say “His Logos”], for we acknowledge also a Son of God.”

Leaving a Legacy of Defense

We must give thanks to the early work of these apologists; many of who were killed for contending for voicing the truth. These early fathers of the faith show us how we today can combat the false accusation and heresies of twenty-first century and beyond by contrasting the truth of scripture and the false world-view of man pointing the hearer to the glory of God and His salvation for man.

 

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God Resist the Proud: James 4:6

This past March, Hearts For The Lost held the Compelled Conference in Lexington SC which was comprised of teaching on evangelism and powerful preaching from men like Mike Gonzalez, Todd Friel and Emilio Ramos. The messages were both convicting and challenging. Some of those challenges have caused some chatter on blogs, Facebook, and radio. In particular, was a statement regarding a verse well known in the Way of the Master circles from the book of James.

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”[1]

Before we hit the blogs and other sources for answers to challenging thought-provoking discussion, we should hit the scriptures. Many of our issues with passages or interpretations could be solved by knowledge of the word that comes from consistent study over many years.

Here in the book of James we need to understand first that the audience he is speaking to are Jewish believers that have been scattered among the known word of that time attributable to persecution. He was not speaking to unbelievers.

 

The second thing that is needed is to capture the context of what the issues is with these believers that James is addressing.  That issue is adultery…not the physical kind, but of a spiritual nature. This theme would have been very familiar with the Jews. It is a reoccurring problem with Israel though out the OT that resulted in their exile from the land. There is a relationship between God and His people that is illustrated as a marriage where unfaithfulness is akin to adultery. James 4:4 uses this figure of speech for spiritual unfaithfulness.[2] The Jewish believers had drifted from their first love and towards the world.

It is here that James reminds them that God resists the proud of heart. But who is “the proud”? We need to understand a concept of how the Bible uses the term “the proud” to help understand this. One way to define pride is as improper and excessive self-esteem known as conceit or arrogance.[3] Another is as an unbeliever. It is in this latter context I believe that Proverbs 3:34 uses it. But here in James he is speaking to believers. These Jewish believers are drifting from God and James is warning them that as a result, God will oppose them. So what is the solution? It is, just as James says, “to submit to God” (Jas 4:7) or another way to say it, humble yourself.

So what is the application for us? For one thing, we need to recognize that as Christians we are not immune to pride. We all suffer from this and as James warns, God opposes the proud. But it is grace that allows us to submit to God in repentance. This is an area in our lives we may not want to examine, but it must. Pride can destroy a person’s work, marriage, family, and ministry. It is a gross sin that we must be continually killing and actively at war with. If you think you have conquered this sin or that pride is not something you are tempted with, then my friend you are fooling yourself.

But what is the application for evangelism you may be asking. Well, in this regards I believe others have addressed it better than I could. But notice in the verse following James 4:6 it says “submit to God.” There is your application and antidote for the proud of heart. The gospel: the full and unconditional surrendering to the mercy of the cross. This is the remedy and the message we must preach.


[1]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jas 4:6.

[2] Donald W. Burdick, “James,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 12 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 193.

[3] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1752.

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Answering a Skeptic

Repent CoexistQ: Isn’t God racist, violent, and a tyrant because He told the Israelites to annihilate the Canaanites?

A: Actually the biblical account of what God did to the Canaanites teaches the complete opposite.

First you have to understand God created man-kind, therefore He owns them and has the authority to do with them as He wants. If you were to paint a beautiful picture and then destroy it. Isn’t that your business? No one can accuse you of wrong doing.

Secondly, God’s patience and love is shown that while the Canaanites has sinned against God in horrific ways, child sacrifice, idolatry, sexual sins and murder He gave them centuries to repent and turn from their evil ways. But they choose to live in rebellion to God.

Lastly, it shows that God loves justice and will not allow evil to go un-punished. Remember, the Canaanites had done wicked thing like burning newborn babies to their false god Molach. God used Israel to bring justice to the land and point the remaining people to a right relationship with God that would lead to forgiveness of sin and eternal life.

So you see, the reason we think there is an injustice done here is because we know if God were to execute justice we would be destroyed just like the Canaanites. But God’s patience has allowed us to live this long waiting for you to repent and place your faith in Jesus Christ. Don’t wait.

Bibliographical note:

I am indebted to Charlie H. Campbell for much of the material in this post. I adapted the material for instructional use. – B.R.

14.00

 

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Hardened to the Gospel

Have you ever heard someone describe a person as hardened to the gospel? They may go on to discuss the gross sins that the person is living. Our faith teaches that no one is beyond the saving power of Christ but do we really believe it? Do our prayers betray our lack of faith of what our head knowledge declares: God can save anyone? For some encouragement let’s look back to the Old Testament and examine the life of arguably the most evil king of Judah: Manasseh.

Manasseh came to power at the age of twelve after the death of his father Hezekiah. Now Hezekiah is described by the writer of Kings as doing what was right in the sight of the LORD. How is it then that his son fell so far away from his example? Perhaps it was because Manasseh did not get much instruction from his busy father or because he ascended to the throne at such a young age his views were shaped by his advisers who despised the religious reforms of his father. Whatever the reason, the policies of his rule is understated when it says he did evil in the sight of the LORD. Let’s take a look at some of the things he did:

  • He rebuilt the altars his father destroyed.
  • Built altars to false gods and even placed them with in the Temple courts
  • Made wooden idols and established one even inside the Temple, possible removing the Ark of God to do so. (2 Chr 35:3)
  • Practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritualists.
  • Sacrificed his own children to Molech. This involved burning them to death by laying them on the heated red hot hands of the idol or with fire.
  • He led others into the sins he was committing.
  • Tradition says he was the one who killed Isaiah the prophet of God by sawing him in two.
  • He provoked God to anger and refused His council.

It was the sins of this king that brought about the eventual destruction of Judah. His sins were worthy of death according the law of God given in Deuteronomy. God brought about punishment by allowing Jerusalem to be conquered and Manasseh humiliatingly carried away by the army of the Assyrian King Esar-haddon.

A True Conversion

As grave and disgusting as these sins may seem let us not forget that our own sins produced the same stench before God. Yet through grace God chose to save us in spite of our rebellion.

Through the discipline of God towards King Manasseh he was converted. The scriptures tell us he humbled himself before God. He prayed to God for forgiveness and was granted repentance. We can also then see the fruits of this repentance worked out in his life. After his conversion, God allowed the Assyrian king to restore him to his throne and immediate and through the rest of his life, Manasseh instituted political and religious reforms. He refortified the walls of Jerusalem and set troops at each of the militarized cities of Judah to provide protection for his people. These were some of his political reforms brought forth from a new compassion for people and awakened responsibility to his position. He also removed the idols and altars from the temple and cleared the land of idol worship. He then repaired the altar of the LORD and led his nation in worship of the one true God.

God can take any man of filth and place praises in his mouth. Let us remember this and bring a new fervor to our evangelistic prayers.

The history of Manasseh reign can be found in 2 Chr 33:1-20 & 2 Kings 21:1-18

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Bible is user friendlyA User Friendly Book

Once there was a man who noticed that the sun came up in the East at night and went down in the West the next morning. This struck him as very odd. So he went home and he wrote a book about it. Many years later we found his book. Imagine we were reading it trying to figure out what actually happened that day. We would probably say this guy was clearly in error and it’s not likely that the information in his book could be fully trusted.

However, what if 500 other people actually saw that same event happen and 250 of them went home and also wrote a book about it. Now we would actually have 251 written eyewitness accounts which we could compare to each other to find out if they’re all saying the same thing.

Further, we would have the other 250 eyewitness of the day who would have been able to testify that what is written in those books did actually happen.

The True Eyewitness Account

Seriously folks: The Bible is trustworthy and it is the only weapon within the armor of God that the evangelist has that permits him to withstand in the evil day. It really is the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.

“I choose to believe the Bible because it’s a reliable collection of historical documents created by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses, it records the supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claimed that their writings are divine rather than human in origin.” – Pastor Vodie Baucham

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” -2 Peter 1:16-21

 

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Indifference to Evangelism

It is a general principal that in the church people who are active in evangelism represent the minority not the majority. Now could it be because Christians who share their faith are over-active annoying Christians who just don’t understand that it’s not polite to speak of Christ in public? I don’t think so. But the fact remains that many professing Christians never share their faith verbally. According to Dr. Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ said that less than two percent of professing believers ever share their faith with others. Why is this and how can it change?

Leaving Our First Love

Those of you who are married should remember what it was like when you first started dating your spouse. Remember how much of your thoughts revolved around your new found love. Now, how much of your thoughts today revolve around Jesus Christ? Isn’t He supposed to be our first love? For many professing Christians their thoughts are more about sports, food, recreation, or work. This is evident by where they put their time and money. When we come to Christ in repentance and faith we realize the depth of the price that was paid on our behalf and how undeserving we are of His grace. This realization drives our thoughts to become consumed by Jesus. As a result we want others to know of this grace and we act in obedience sharing the good news; not out of mechanical orthodoxy but rather in love for what He has done for us. But in time this passion for Christ begins to cool down in some people and with it the desire to spread the gospel. I call this the Ephesus-Effect.

The Ephesus-Effect

In Revelations 2 we see a letter from Christ given to the church in Ephesus. This church was a power house in the early first century. It was begun by Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:26), established by Paul (Acts 19) and pastored by John.  Nevertheless they receive a stinging condemnation.

“…I have this against you, that you left your first love.” -Revelations 2:4

Jesus warns them that their lamp stand will be removed if they do not repent and do the first work; which is to love your God with all your heart. This is the first commandment. Without a love of Christ there can be no obedience. It is an appreciation for the grace of God that drives us to serve Christ. This we have been commanded to do; to spread the gospel and open our mouths declaring the truth (Acts 1:8, Acts 2:14).

Curing the Ephesus-Effect

So what is the solution? Let’s read what Christ said.

“…I will come and remove your lamp stand from its place-unless you repent.” -Revelations 2:5

We see that the solution is repentance. Scripture tells us as Christian the He is faithful to forgive if we confess our sins. (1 John 1:9) Apparently, the church in Ephesus did not heed this warning as we can see today it is no more. If our love for Christ has grown cold and our lack of obedience in evangelism is evident then repent while there is still time and fix your eyes upon Jesus and speak for His sake.

Go and Serve

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The Importance of the Local Church in Evangelism

Once long ago there was a pastor who noticed that one of his sheep had drifted from attending worship on Sunday. He resolved himself to determine the source of this so he made a calling on the gentleman’s home the following evening. “Pastor, what a pleasure to see you.” the surprised parishioner said when he opened the door. “Come in and take a seat next to the fire.” The Pastor followed him in and quietly approached the fire without saying a word. The parishioner watched as he picked up a poker and began the spread out the burning wood, separating it from one another. The bright warm fire began to dim and die out in the process. Immediately the wayward parishioner stated, “Alright, aright, I get the point. I’ll be at worship this Sunday.

God has called each of us to be in a local church. It is within the local church that discipleship, accountability, discipline, and corporate worship take place as well as the keeping of the ordinances; the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. God did not design us to work in isolation. Jesus Christ is the supreme authority for the church and He has placed Elders and Deacons to administer His church on earth. We are called to be under their authority and submit to their leadership. (Hebrews 13:17)

Stepping Away From the Local Church

While we maintain this to be true I have noticed too often that evangelism is done and organized outside of the authority of the local church. Most often this is because of a frustration with the lack of enthusiasm for evangelism by congregants and/or leadership. No doubt this can be exasperating. But this is no reason to step outside of the authority of the church and become the lone-ranger-evangelist. When this is done efforts will be unprofitable and sin will be crouching at your door because you have no accountability. Your witness will also be weak because you will not have the prayers and support of your local church. If this describes you then I ask you to repent.

Practical Ways to Be Obedient

You may be thinking, “But you do not understand my pastor. He offers no support for evangelism.” This may be true, but it is your pastor that has been called to lead and you to submit. But I am not going to leave you with no help. There are things you can do to help build a fire for evangelism within your own church.

  1. Pray for your church leaders and encourage them:  Now I’m not talking about imprecatory prayers. I’m telling you to really pray for them and their family. Personally, I have a reminder on my calendar prompting me so the business of life does not make me forget. Also send them an email telling them what you enjoyed about their sermon and avoid saying anything negative. Do not give them pointers or tell how R.C. Sproul or John MacArthur did the same message.
  2. Do not discuss negative things about your pastor particularly in front of your children: Give them the respect the position deserves. Use their titles and have your children do the same. Hold your tongue and remember that they are also sinners saved by grace just like you and can make mistakes.
  3. Ask your Pastor what you can do to help him: Notice I didn’t say tell him what you are willing to do for him. I spent years changing air filters and vacuuming bugs out of light fixtures. We are all servants of Christ and no one position in the body is greater than the other. Do it all for the glory of God.
  4. Talk to your Pastor about your passion for evangelism: Also tell him that you want to do so under the authority of the church. Even if he disagrees with your methods he will appreciate your willingness to submit to his authority and your passion to serve Christ.
  5. Start or submit to your church’s prayer list or chain those you witness to: This will engage others to pray for their salvation and for Christ’s glory in your efforts. This will also help others see what you are doing and become excited as well.
  6. See if your pastor is willing to allow evangelism training:  You could also suggest a conference like Hearts For The Lost. But be clear that you will be handling the hard work of leading, finding leaders, arrangements, and other duties. The last thing a Pastor needs is someone coming and suggesting a new program for him to implement.

When you begin submitting to Christ’s church and His leadership He will bless the efforts of your evangelism. The purpose of the local church is to bring God glory.  (Ephesians 3:21) What glory there is to His name when His beautiful gospel is declared by His church to the people of your community!

Grace be with you all.

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laser lightWarning!

Warning, warning, danger lurks ahead. Slow down dangerous curve ahead. Caution slippery floor. Clearance is only 14’9″.

All around us every day, nearly every which way you look are warnings concerning the possibility of serious injury or possibly death. Most of us would not think twice about warning even a complete stranger of a possible danger. In fact, we often find that it is instinctive within us to offer a loud verbal warning followed by wildly flailing physical gestures.  Look out below! Fore! Duck! Everybody please stand back!

Most of our civil laws require warning labels and signs to be posted in very conspicuous places so that everyone will see them. Why is this? Because the danger is real and warning people is the right and reasonable things to do.

The Blind Man

If you were to notice a blind man walking inches from a very steep cliff, I am sure that you would see that it would be right and proper to shout a warning.  If the warning to the blind man then goes unheeded you would need to increase your efforts, maybe as far as even as grabbing the man by the arm and yanking him back. There is a drive within a person to convince a person of the danger of which another is unaware.  In this case illustrated you may even go so far as dropping 10 stones over the cliff so as they are heard crashing below to convince the blind man may avoid peril. Warnings are of little use after the damage is done. It would do no good to shout a warning when the blind man is already plummeting to his death.

Warnings from God

This is the plight of the evangelist. Sin is very real. God’s judgment is very real. Death and Hell are very real. The evangelist sees a world sinking into the grave. Driven by truth he shouts the warnings of the Gospel. But wait, doesn’t “Gospel” mean “good news”? Actually yes, and warning someone of unforeseen danger is to that person very good news indeed.

God has given us the Gospel of Christ. For the Christian, sin, death, and hell are no longer their own. For God has imputed the righteousness of Christ to them and their sin to Christ. Who suffered and died, conquered death, and arose again. Therefore it is the joy of the evangelist to proclaim the triumph of Christ.

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“I know that if I just ask God for forgiveness, He will forgive me.” 

This is one of the most common responses when sharing the gospel with folks. Shockingly, the response above is most often given by those who claim to be believers but show no understanding of God’s character.

Sadly, this demonstrates the state of the American church today. We’ve become a church culture so “gospel-less” that the average person who attends church cannot articulate the true, biblical gospel.

Most people believe that they are heaven-bound because:

  1. They attend church and have been baptized or they do good works.
  2. They have asked God to forgive them.

Let’s focus on the second response since this is one that is most common.

One way I like to share the gospel is to turn it around and get people to share it with me. I’ll tell them that I have lived a horrible life and I have three minutes to live and desire to be forgiven. I’ll ask them to tell me how I can be forgiven and go to heaven. What I most often get is a simple, “just ask God to forgive you and He will.” I’ll ask, “is that all I have to do?” They respond, “yep!

This is where there is an inadequate understanding of God and how He is revealed in Scripture.

God is a forgiving God. The Bible tells us He is. But the Bible also clearly tells us that God is also just and He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. (Exodus 34:6-8) He is a just Judge and must deal with sin.If He just forgave us of our sins without dealing with our sins then He would be unjust, unholy and frankly a very bad judge.

One of the greatest questions that fallen humanity must ask is, “how can God be just and the justifier of the wicked?” This truly is the ultimate question.

So, this causes a dilemma. If we really begin to delve into God forgiving sinners, we must ask how He can justly forgive sinners without there being a penalty paid for the sin? How can God be just and the justifier of the guilty?

Let’s take a look at Proverbs 17:15:

“He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.” (Proverbs 17:15, ESV)

This verse teaches us that it is an abomination to God if the wicked are justified and the righteous are condemned. So then, based on this verse if an unbeliever were to simply ask God to forgive him, and God did, then God would be going against His own word and would be an abomination in His own eyes.

Here is where the gospel shines with all its glorious splendor. God can and does forgive sinners but only if our sin is dealt with and His justice is satisfied.

It is impossible for us to do anything to satisfy that debt since we are already sinners and even our most contrite and heartfelt sorrow is in itself tainted with sin. The only solution is for someone who is without sin to stand in our place and satisfy God’s righteous wrath. What we need is a great transaction.

This is exactly what Christ did for us. 

“He made Him who new no sin to become sin on our behalf so we might have the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21 ESV)

Christ is the answer to how God can be just and the justifier of sinners. The Father imputed all the sins of the elect on Christ on the cross (allowing Christ Himself to remain perfectly sinless) and poured out all the wrath on Christ in our stead. We must be careful never to think that Christ was an unwilling participant in this plan. Before time began, the Trinity planned this great event and Christ was a willing substitute for our sin as the Last Adam. It demonstrates our triune God’s great love for us. (Romans 5:8)

This way, God is just and has dealt with our sin. No created thing will ever be able to point the finger at God and accuse Him of being unjust in saving His people. The other side of this amazing transaction is that through repentance and faith, Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed to us. When God looks on believers He sees the perfect, spotless righteousness of His Son.

So, God does forgive sin but only through the glorious substitutionary death of His Son. No amount of tears, good works or begging for forgiveness outside of faith in Christ will work.

Think about it this way. If God just forgave everyone who asked without a penalty for sin being due, then Christ died needlessly. (Galatians 2:21) If God could just sweep our sin under the “celestial rug” and not deal with it taking only our plea for forgiveness, then Christ’s death was pointless. The cross demonstrates to us not only the love of God but also His justice.

But isn’t there a verse in the Scriptures that promises if we confess our sin God will forgive us?

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, ESV)

There is a problem though. This verse is not written to unbelievers. It applies only to believers in Christ Jesus. There is a very important little four letter word in this verse that is essential to our understanding of the gospel. That little word is just.

John tells us that if believers will confess their sins to God as Father that He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins. He can only be just in forgiving us our sins because Christ has stood in our place and bore His wrath. So this verse is speaking of the constant need for believers to confess their sins to God so that fellowship with Him is unhindered. An unbeliever cannot claim the promises of this verse since he is not covered under the atoning work of Christ.

I hope that as you’ve read through this that you will marvel with me at the wisdom of God in the gospel. Marvel at His grace and mercy but be aware that His grace and mercy are made available only through the cross-work and merit of Christ Jesus.

If you have thought all along that you could simply ask God for forgiveness outside of Christ, then turn in repentance and faith to the only One who can save you – Jesus Christ. If you have been trusting in yourself, your own works, attending church or doing good things, turn from them and put your faith and trust in Christ Jesus alone.

Cry out to God to open your eyes to the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:6) that you may embrace Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Today is the day of salvation!

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Building Foundations

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to organize an outreach through my Church at a local county fair. This week-long endeavor required many volunteers to cover the 200 plus man hours needed. God provided!

It was during one of these days at the fair that I decided to experiment by asking youth, high school and younger, the following questions:  Who was Jesus? Who was Moses? Who was David? Who was Jonah? And finally who was Adam and Eve? I received a bizarre range of answers and blank stares. One child believed that Jonah helped carried the cross for Jesus. Another said Moses killed a giant. Others thought these people had to do with current events. The saddest was a middle school boy who had never heard of Adam and Eve. When I explained they were the first two people his eyes got big and he said, “We know that!

This brings up a question; how do we communicate the gospel to a generation that lacks any biblical foundation? Are we seeing such a shift in ignorance that witnessing in America will be akin to doing so with a new people group in a faraway land? While it is certainly true that society is becoming increasingly ignorant of biblical concepts this does not mean it is becoming a useless endeavor to proclaim the gospel.

However, what it does mean is we need to explain the terms. Repentance, faith, resurrection, grace, salvation, saved, and sin. We understand these terms and concepts but to a generation who at best has sat in church for a wedding or two have no basis for understanding our Christian terminology. We must define the words as we use them. For example, when sharing my faith I never use the word repentance without then defining it; agreeing with God we deserve punishment for sin, confessing sin, turning from sin to God, having sorrow over sin and hatred of it. Of course this brings me to another word; sin. What is it? Violating God’s law. But what is God’s law? The commandments. How does this apply to the person? You see, we must begin at the beginning. When speaking of the beginning, many times I have had to go back to Genesis in order to fill in the information that is missing from a person’s void of biblical knowledge.

While defining words are important I have not yet answered the real question. How do I communicate the gospel of Christ to a person who may not have even heard of Jesus Christ except as a swear word. Well to answer this we need to understand some biblical principles.

First, while a person may not appear to profess any knowledge of God the reality is they know there is one. How is this possible you may ask? Well, the scripture tell us this is in fact the truth.

“The fool says in his heart there is no God” -Psalm 14:1

And

“…by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” -Romans 1:18

So how does this truth become known?

There are two ways this truth is known to all men. The first is called General Revelation. This is the evidence of the creator that testifies to His glory: The Creation. By looking into creation itself man sees God’s handiwork. This give mankind no excuse to say there is no God, and makes him a fool for doing so.

“The heavens declare the glory of God” -Psalm 19:1

The second is the conscience. This is where God wrote His moral law on the hearts of men. And it is here that you should appeal to with a biblically ignorant society. Because God has placed a conscience in each person it is universally programmed and in tune with God’s commandments. Lying, stealing, murder, dishonoring parents, adultery, coveting are condemned largely in all societies. So this conscience is a God given foundation within each person to build from in your presentation of the gospel.

So here is a framework:

Engage in the natural realm

Engage the conscience

Present the problem

Provide the solution

Present the seriousness

So let me unpack that into a real word conversation.

Engage in the Natural Realm:

This is what you do every day. “How’s the weather?” “Did you see that game last night?” The content is not important but it engages the person into a conversation.

Engage the Conscience:

This can be lead into in various ways. One way I use is a more direct. I may transition by simply asking, “Do you ever thing about what happens to a person when they die? What do you think it would take to go to a better place after death?” At this point you have moved in to the spiritual realm with a person. The typical response to the proposition of the duty to enter a better place after death is most often living a good life. But if we work through the commandments, lying, stealing, lust, hatred the person will see, by their own conscience, they have not been good.

Present the Problem:

The problem or dilemma is that if we have broken the moral law we must deserve punishment. Assuming a person has no real understanding of heaven, hell, or God’s attributes you will have to define them as you proceed. But you are now beginning to educate the person to their destiny without Christ, of which the truth is being testified by in their conscience. This is a work of the Holy Spirit.

Present the Solution:

Once a person understands they have sinned against a righteous God and understand they can do nothing to save themselves then you can give them grace. The scriptures teach that Christ crucified is folly to the Greek. (1 Corinthians 1:23) why? Because they have no concept of its implications. But through the law, the Ten Commandments, their conscience will testify to the problem and reality of sin. Furthermore the Spirit uses this to bring understand of the solution. It is the Holy Spirit that enables a person to repent and place their faith in Christ. This brings relief to us. Knowing we are only responsible to engage and person and present the good news is good news indeed. As is often said, we plow the earth and plant the seed, others water it, but God makes it grow.

Presenting the Seriousness:

Often times I hear a presentation of the gospel that is left with the hearer as if they can make the decision as to its importance. But the scripture teaches this adherence is critical. In Act 17:30 we see He commands everyone to repent. We are also called to plead with a person that they might turn from their sins to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20) Leaving the message without this seriousness is inconstant with the presentation in the scripture.

Conclusion

In summary, as culture continues to slide into ignorance, approaching a person with the gospel without first using the law to explain sin, our efforts will sink into the sands of confusion and foolishness because of a lack of foundation. Beginning with sin just as the scripture begins with the fall will establish the foundation needed with the aid of a God given helper called the conscience. Coupled with explaining the terms, this approach is not only effective but biblical. However, it will be useless unless we step out of our comfort zone and engage the world where they are in our own neighborhoods.

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