Category Archives: Evangelism

Quote of the Day – 1/5/2019

“The best words that men can speak are ineffectual till explained
and applied by the Spirit of God. He alone can open the heart.”

—John Newton

This quotation was taken from, Out of the Depths, the autobiography of John Newton. You may remember him as the author of the hymn Amazing Grace. He wrote these words referring to the time when he was slowly being drawn to Christ. Although he heard various preachers speak and had been reading the Bible himself, he did not understand his need of repentance and faith in Jesus until God’s Spirit opened his eyes. His experience is replicated both in Jesus’ teaching and the Book of Acts.

John 6:44-45 – “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who [i]has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.”

John 16:8-11 – “And when He [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

Acts 16:14 – “Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.”

For some, the quotation may seem negative. It makes them feel as if their evangelistic efforts are of no use unless God chooses to work. But for me, I find these truths to be encouraging. While I must take the time to prepare, the outcome is ultimately not my responsibility; it is God’s. And, thankfully, He is willing and able to work in the hearts of people today as he did so many years ago. I look forward to this happening again and again.

Three Important Points for the Living

The death of a loved one often softens our hearts toward spiritual matters. We begin to consider what life is all about and what happens at the end of life. While our hearts are tender, the family has asked me to present to you a message about God’s salvation, to prepare each of us for what lies ahead. To do that, let us consider three thoughts from one of the most famous passages of Scripture, John 3.

You must be born again (John 3:3).

Nicodemus was a religious man who had done so well that he had been chosen as one of the seventy members of the Jewish Sanhedrin. He was also known as the teacher of Israel. And yet, Jesus knew that he needed something more. He needed to be born again. What exactly does that mean? Jesus was referring to an internal spiritual awakening that only God can produce. Just as you have no control over being born, the same can be said of the new birth. It is something God must create inside each of us.

Many people are like Nicodemus today. They are religious, nice, and do good things. And they think that their good deeds will weigh more than the sins they have committed so that God will let them into heaven when they pass from this life. Jesus knew the truth about Nicodemus and the rest of us. We are sinful people who can never please God by our good deeds unless God changes us from the inside out. But how does that happen?

You must believe on Jesus (John 3:14-16).

Jesus reminded Nicodemus of a story from ancient Israel. As Moses was leading the nation of Israel across the desert, they developed bad attitudes toward God and began to complain. God punished them by sending fiery serpents into the camp. The poisonous snakes bit many people and a number of them died. The punishment caused the people to repent of their sin and turn to God for help. They said, “Moses! Pray to God to save us from the fiery serpents!” When Moses prayed, God gave him an unexpected answer. He was told to build a serpent out of brass and hold it up for the people to look at. All those who looked at the brass serpent were healed.

This historical story is very much like what Jesus did for the world. Each of us is traveling through life with a fiery ending in the future. Our sins against God have earned us his wrath and eternity in Hell. And yet God loved us and provided a solution for our problem. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so Jesus was lifted up on a cross. He was taken by wicked men and nailed to a cross to die who didn’t realize that this was part of God’s plan to save the world. On that cross, Jesus bled and died to pay for our sins. It was there that God punished Jesus for all the sins mankind has ever and will ever commit against God. He didn’t deserve that, but he did it willingly for you and me. After his death he was buried in a tomb but three days later, God showed that he had accepted Jesus death for us by raising him from the dead. Do you believe this?

You must make a choice (John 3:19-21).

Jesus told Nicodemus that there are two types of people in the world. There are those who are condemned because they choose to love their sin instead of God. Like a ray of light in a dark room, the light of the Bible shines on their lives, but they won’t listen. They continue loving and practicing their sins against God. They turn from the light because they don’t want to change. These type of people have no hope. They go through life enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season but have a terrible future in store for them in eternity.

There is another type of person who is different. As the light of the Bible reveals his sin, he responds to God’s convicting message. His spiritual eyes are opened and he realizes that his sins are against God. He leaves his sins and turns to Jesus, the only hope for sinful man. And when he believes that Jesus died for him and rose from the grave, God changes him and makes him into a new person who wants to hear the Bible, who wants to please God, and who wants to live for God.

So, the big question today is this. Which person are you? God loves you and sent his Son Jesus to die for you so that you can escape the eternal punishment of Hell. But now that the light of God’s word has shined on your sin, will you turn from it and believe? If you do, God will forgive you, cleanse you, and make you a new person from the inside out. If you continue in your sin and unbelief, you will face the consequences some day. But if you turn to God from your sins today, you will not only escape that condemnation but will have a new life that is unlike any other. You will enjoy God’s blessing on your life now and a home in heaven in the future. As God works in your heart today, I hope that each of you will turn from your sin and believe in Jesus.

Preparing for the Gospel’s Reception

How did God originally prepare the people of Jesus’ day to receive his message? In Mark 1:1-8, Mark made it clear that God had a plan that had been prepared long before Jesus arrived. Mark quoted Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 to show that God’s plan included a man who would speak from the wilderness a message that would ready the people for the entrance of Jesus and his good news. Apparently, these prophecies would have reminded the people of a king’s messenger who went ahead of him to prepare roads for his arrival in another country (Hiebert 24-5). Everything was planned ahead of time just as God intended it to happen.

But who was this man whom Malachi and Isaiah prophesied would do this job? It was none other than John the Baptist. Just as had been planned, he prepared the people for Jesus’ arrival by preaching in the wilderness. He told them that they could find forgiveness from God as they repented of their sins and were baptized. People from the surrounding area confessed their sins and were baptized despite the messenger’s unorthodox looks. But even though he was so successful in reaching the hearts of the crowds, he was also a very humble preacher who considered himself unworthy to even untie the sandals of the coming Savior.

As I consider how successfully John the Baptist fulfilled God’s plan, I can’t help but see some applications for today. One of the first things I see is the need for repentance. Before people can understand the good news of Jesus, they need to understand their sinfulness from God’s perspective and their need to turn from their sins. But how many people ever think of that? Unless someone is sent to tell them of their need, they will probably continue in the same direction not knowing their need for forgiveness or utter inability to find it except through Jesus. That’s why God needs Christians to carry the message to other people. But who is worthy to carry this message to the world? Like John, none of us feels worthy of that calling. But God has still chosen to use unworthy people to present his message to others.

Are you willing to be God’s messenger?

Thankful to God

A recent video presentation of the gospel made me very thoughtful — so thoughtful that I couldn’t go to sleep. The video showed a man giving the gospel in under five minutes and in a very clear way. Being a rather inarticulate person in-person, I enjoy hearing someone being able to succinctly speak the truth clearly. After Sharon and I watched it, we thanked the Lord for reaching down to save undeserving sinners like us. It truly is humbling to think that God would choose people like us despite our continued sinfulness. What a great God he is!

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—
though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.

Romans 5:7-8

Whosoever Will May Come?

As I consider the way that the gospel is currently presented by Christians, it seems that most do not believe that God is sovereign over salvation. The idea seems to be that anyone can come to God by his own choice apart from the work of the Father and Holy Spirit. While the Scriptures do call for sinners to respond to the gospel with faith and repentance, they also teach us that none seeks after God (Rom. 3:9-12). It is impossible for a sinful man to respond to the gospel unless God first draws him to himself (John 6:44). Only then will he repent of his sins and believe.

With these thoughts in mind, I began reading (again) a book entitled “Whosoever Will” by Herman Hoeksema. His thoughts are in line with what the Scriptures say about this. In dealing with the lyrics to the hymn “Whosoever Will,” he points out that they are true only if understood in the light of all Scripture. “Whosoever will may come” but only when God draws them to himself and gives him the faith to believe. Otherwise, salvation is impossible because no person naturally seeks after God. But if he does, this is a sign that God is at work.

Do you will to come to Christ? Is it your desire to come to Him as the Fount of Living Water that you may drink? Do you long to come to Him as the Bread of Life that you may eat? Do not hesitate, then! Do not stand afar off, discovering a thousand reasons in yourselves why you could not possibly be received, for whosoever will may come and take of the water of life freely, because whosoever will is already drawn by the Father! You may hear the word of Christ: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).

Herman Hoeksema, Whosoever Will, (Grandville, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2002), 8.

“Faith comes from God. Its success does not depend on the life or death of a man.”
—the Swiss Reformed after the death of Ulrich Zwingli

As quoted by Jean Henri Merle D’Aubigne in For God and His People: Ulrich Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation, (Greenville, SC: BJU Press, 2000), 263.

Zwingli on the Extent of Christ’s Sacrifice

“Christ, very man and very God, has purchased for us a never-ending redemption. For since it was the eternal God who died for us, His passion is therefore an eternal sacrifice, and everlastingly effectual to heal; it satisfies the divine justice for ever in behalf of all those who rely upon it with firm and unshaken faith.”

As quoted by Jean Henri Merle D’Aubigne in For God and His People: Ulrich Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation, (Greenville: BJU Press, 2000), 59.

John 6:44 and Acts 9:15

This morning I took a long walk during which I thought about what Jesus said in John 6:44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” His point was that those listening to him would not believe until God the Father drew them to himself. It takes a supernatural work of God to convince sinners of their sinfulness, lack of righteousness, and future judgment.

My first thought was to consider the work God did in the demoniac of Gadera. This man was hopelessly lost and oppressed by demons. In his case, his only hope was to meet Jesus and be freed from his situation. What could be worse? When I got home from my walk, the Lord brought to mind another hopeless case: Saul of Tarsus. Saul was so blinded by his religious background that he fought against the very God he was attempting to serve. Remember how he held the coats of those who stoned faithful Stephen? And yet, God called this man despite his anti-Christian bias. On the same day that he meant to imprison Christians from Damascus, God called him and he responded.

But even Ananias, one of God’s faithful followers in Damascus, was skeptical. When the Lord told him to go to Saul, Ananias answered with an “Are you sure you want me to do that?” The Lord’s answer was simple: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” God’s choice over ruled Saul’s hopeless situation. And the results from that effectual calling are evident not only in the book of Acts but in the inspired writings of Saul/Paul.

No matter how bad the situation, when God calls a sinful person to himself, he will come to him.

Chart of Salvation: Introduction

Is there a God? You may be wondering about that yourself. You’ve heard people talk about God at weddings and funerals, but as far as you’re concerned he doesn’t exist. When you look at the world you don’t see evidence for God. What you see is a bunch of people trying to make the best of life until death ends their existence. Where is God in that?

The truth is that God does exist and he is actively involved. Take a look at the world around you. Do you really believe that the intricate details of the world and its ecosystem simply came together by chance? How is it that our planet is just the right distance away from the sun? If it were any closer we would be burned up; if any further away we would freeze. How is it that just the right amount of oxygen is always available for us to breathe? It’s not by chance that trees and plants interact with the carbon dioxide we exhale and then produce more oxygen for our use. Things like this and many more point toward the existence of God, the one who created everything that exists around you.

But is the Creator just a being who wound up creation like a big clock and then left it alone? No, God is actively involved in our lives and he has revealed himself to us in a book called the Bible. The Bible is God’s way of communicating himself and his plan for all of us. As you read it, you will find out about the creation of the world, God’s desire for a relationship with mankind, man’s choice to rebel against God, God’s gracious remedy for that sin, and God’s wonderful plan for all those who believe.

In the next few paragraphs, I would like to show you this plan that God has formulated for everyone. It may be helpful to view the chart as well. In the first section (begins at the bottom center of chart), we will look at man’s problem and in the second (top center), God’s solution. By the end, my hope is that you will understand what God has done and that you will respond to him in faith.

Next: 1. Sinful man does not seek God.

The Key to Evangelism

As I have been studying the book of Revelation in Sunday School class, one thing has become quite clear. Regarding the judgments against ungodly men during the Tribulation, one commenter rightly sums things up:

… the greatest judgments that can befall men, will not bring to repentance without the grace of God. To be hardened against God, by his righteous judgments, is a certain token of sure and utter destruction.

This is the sad but true predicament that every man faces without God’s grace. Unless God graciously opens the heart to believe, all is hopeless … now and in the future. As a result, we need to pray that God would extend his grace to each person we meet. Only then do we have hope of seeing sinful people converted. Let’s pray this week and see what God is (and has always been) able to accomplish!