Month: March 2017

Evangelism: Part 1

whitefield

Small, conservative churches today generally are not known for their evangelistic fire, especially when compared to the larger, mainline churches. The mainstream, left-leaning denominations have built their entire spiritual and doctrinal infrastructure after sociological and commercial models designed specifically for bringing in the unchurched. So, it can be hard for a small church to “compete.”

Yet, there was once a day where the theologically conservative led the charge in spreading the gospel, like Jonathan Edwards in the Great Awakening and his taking the gospel to the frontier’s Native Americans, or George Whitefield and his fiery, open-air sermons. But unfortunately, this is not the case with many conservative churches today.

With the exception of a few, these churches have largely been characterized by outsiders as being cold, stagnant, closed off, irrelevant, or even that they have an aroma of exclusivity and a sense of pride for being what they are. It would be foolish to brush off such criticism as a harsh misunderstanding without taking an honest look within one’s small church to determine if this criticism is true, because there certainly can be a coldness and the like in some churches that is causing them to be poor witnesses to the gospel.

It may be a struggle for small churches with limited resources and knowledge to reach a lost population that believes in things that are so contrary to what conservative churches believe. So, in the face of such a challenge, there is an often-succumbed temptation to remain “as is,” meaning, there is no real attempt to spread and grow.

The reason for remaining “as is” may vary from church to church, but the problem, admitted or not, may lie in one or more of the following things:

That we are too comfortable with the people in our church and resist any change that might “mess up” the social dynamic;

We lack the desire to speak the gospel to any outsider;

We have an “us versus them” mentality and desire to leave them to their own devises;

That if they want the truth, they will come in and get it;

We lack the confidence to speak the gospel because we lack a deep of knowledge of it;

That we are ignorant of evangelism’s rich, doctrinal importance for the Christian’s life, and ultimately the church’s life.

Whether or not a church recognizes any of these as their excuse for not evangelizing, there are demotivating factors like this at play somewhere in the individual church’s outlook. There is the question of how to get a church that may struggle with those things to be motivated to evangelize? Since from the heart flow the issues of life, then a right theology of evangelism should be the appropriate spark to motivate a congregation to evangelism. It begins with an understanding that if we truly love God, we will love our neighbor as well in an evangelistic way.

That being said, this discussion will first examine the believer’s love to God as a motivation for evangelism and then the believer’s love to man as a motivation for evangelism.

Colossians 3

Unless people would be quick to free themselves from any manner of rule, seeing that they have been freed from the judgment and rules of men, Paul reminds them to live a life that is becoming of Christ.

Now that Christ is our life and He has freed us from these earthly things, we are to put off the earthly things that seek to ensnare us, which are the things that God’s wrath abides against, and are the things which Christ took upon His shoulders and mortified on the cross for us. It is unbecoming for a person who trusts in the sacrificial work of Christ to continue in the things for which He was sacrificed.

Rather, believers are to “seek those things which are above,” which is putting on the knowledge of God’s will by seeking wisdom and understanding in His word. Putting on fruitful work is characterized by patience, longsuffering, joy- and above all these- love, “which is the bond of perfectness.”

This putting on and putting off, bonded perfectly in true, godly love, has implications for all walks of life: to husbands, to wives, children, parents, employers, and employees. The source of these things is the peace and word of Christ ruling and dwelling in us richly. So, we are to remain in His Word with all prayer, humility, and thankfulness so that we may know His will and live a life worthy of the gospel.

Colossians 2

This chapter reveals part of the reason why Paul wants us to grow in the knowledge of the will of God and of God Himself. It is so that we do not become entangled, confused, and bound by deceptive philosophies and man-made religions that have no eternal value or ultimate authority.

Having seen true religion manifested in Christ, who has subjected all things under His feet, including the philosophies and religions of men, we are to compare all things to His work and His teaching. We are free from the false and often overbearing rule of earthly traditions and systems of thought that would seek to place us under them, because Christ is our head and has “disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.”

So we are bound only to listen to His word. Other men’s words cannot constrain us because they do not have ultimate authority.

Colossians 1

Paul encourages us to grow in knowledge.

This knowledge is mentioned twice in this chapter and is directed at two things: an increasing knowledge of God’s will and of God Himself. So, it is to be a matter of knowing what He would have us to do in life, what He desires, and what He has done. It is also an increasing knowledge of the character and being of God; He is calling for us to know Him.

The things you know influence the things you do, and one of the things that Paul would have us know are significant facts regarding the deity of Christ:

His magnificence and power are laid out, doing things that only the eternal, omnipotent God can do, setting Him up as the author and creator over all things (v. 15-16).

This is not something merely done in the past, but that same power presently consists and holds all things together. There is present sovereignty and all power consisting in one being (v. 17, 19).

This magnificent Son is also the one that is in charge of the church and the people within it. And it is the same Son that has done the work of reconciling them to Himself: Jesus, having accomplished it through the blood of the cross. The aim of this teaching is to ground the believers in the identity and work of the One who saved them (v. 23) so that they know He is the one to listen to (3:1-2).

Knowing that this is the Jesus who died for us ought to move us to diligently seek out His words, and to respect the words He has for us by following them. Disbelieving, ignoring, scoffing, disregarding, denouncing, not following, altering, or adjusting His words is not respecting this glorious Lord.

Philippians 4

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“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”

This is a verse that is often misquoted or misapplied. This is not some mantra that we are to recite so that we can achieve our selfish goals.

Taking insight from the context, this sentence is an expression of contentment and the ability to maintain a godly posture in any situation of life that has been placed before us. Whether it is abundance in comfort and prosperity, the seemingly mundane, or the times of want and affliction, Christ gives the strength to sustain His believers’ faithfulness through all matters of life. The goal is peace in Christ in spite of temporal comforts or discomforts.

Often we feel ourselves burdened, wearied, troubled by life’s tempest, discontent with the ample prosperity already given to us, or arrogant because of it. Yet through it all,  we are called to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,” If we dwell upon whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, anything excellent, and anything worthy of praise, then the requests made to God in all situations will be geared for a greater conformity to Christ who alone is true, pure, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of greatest repute, most excellent, and worthy of all praise.