Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practise cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. The clear implication of Paul’s teaching here is that we should be not be underhand in any of our methods in seeking to advance the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Mr Hinton (I have written about him here) took our wedding some twenty three years ago. I always remember him saying in anticipation of the wedding that we were inviting people to a wedding and not a gospel meeting. Now, I admire that attitude that determines upon making the gospel known at weddings and funerals, for example, but we should never forget the purpose of the occasion. Yes it may well be that people are in a situation where they can hear the gospel for one of the few times in their lives, but we should never forget the purpose of the occasion they are attending.
Those attending should know that they are at a funeral or a wedding and should not feel that a slight of hand has been pulled to use that occasion as a means of cornering them with the gospel.
Of course our Lord Jesus is most precious to us and we should want to make known the message of the Lord’s grace that focuses on Him. And we can do this sensitively and appropriately at both weddings and funerals. But let us not appear manipulative in doing this.
If people suspect what we are being deceitful then all the power that comes through a true God-honouring funeral or wedding conducted for the Lord’s glory can be lost because people suspect what we are up to.
This same principle applies in arranging other events such as evangelicalistic meals. If there is going to be a talk tell people beforehand. So people know what they are coming to.
Whatever, happened to “conviction of sin”?
How is the gospel presented so very often today? It is presented as a means of improving your life. People are told that their lives are not what they should be and if they “come to Jesus” they will be improved. Therefore in embracing Jesus their average “run-of-the-mill” lives are pepped up so that they are now fulfilled. But is this right?
The Bible speaks of the work of salvation in far more radical terms. The Bible speaks of us getting a new life and not an improved life. That is the implication of the “born again” term. Technically this is referred to as the doctrine of regeneration. Upon believing in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour we are granted new life. Those who are dead in sins are made anew.
Critical in the experience of salvation is the conviction of sin. Our Lord Jesus said that when the Spirit of God comes he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgement, because the ruler of this world is judged. Sin is the barrier that keeps us from salvation and we need to be convicted of our sin.
To be made aware of our sin is not a human construct. Rather, it is constructed by being in the presence of God. It comes about through becoming aware of who God is and how He and His standards are revealed in His Word. The Holy Spirit uses such means to convict us of our sin and bankrupt state before God. It is only those who have been ransacked by the Word who cry out for the rescuing mercies of God which are found in our Lord Jesus.
The challenge is for us as Christians whether we be preachers or not to be faithfully declaring the need for people to be broken before God because of their sin.
When potentially meeting people and thinking about talking with them I have often been deterred from doing so because of a mental malfunction. I reason it out that as a Christian I should talk to them about the Lord and His salvation. However, in the presenting situation, I feel that that would be difficult and perhaps awkward. So I conclude in my deluded way that I won’t speak to them at all!
What I have sought to do of late is to ditch that way of thinking and rather just speak to people normally. I have sought to simply interact with people about this and that; anything that might be of mutual interest. In doing this I have desired to enjoy the interaction with the other person. In taking this approach I am to freed myself of the perceived burden of having to introduce spiritual things.
So if nothing about scripture or the bible develops then I hang loose about that. However, should the opportunity arise to move things on to a more spiritual level then I trust the Lord to take advantage of such opportunities.
In all this I feel that the ministry of the Lord was of this ilk. As i read the gospels i sense a calm reasonableness to His approach to the general circumstances of life. When he was interacting with people there was nothing off putting about him. There was no Bible bashing or contrived spiritual conversations. He simply talked to people and naturally introduced spiritual matters
Of course He was the ultimate Holy Spirit led man who was always anointed into the right way. However, He is also our example in all things. And when we are enabled and anointed by the Holy Spirit we will be ministering in a way that is in the likeness of our Lord.
I am pondering here upon the experience of being a unbeliever and wondering how they can go on in life. When I say unbeliever I am referring to those who do not acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Saviour; those who have not repented of their sins and believed in Jesus as their Saviour.
Now life can be tough for the believer; sometimes very tough. We read of Paul and Barnabas how they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said. (Acts 14:21b-22). Many hardships can be experienced by those believing in the Lord. However, always there is hope. There is hope of eternal blessings secured by our Lord and Saviour which we will fully enter into by-and-by. Moreover, there is knowledge that our sovereign kind Lord is watching over us to work out all things for His glory.
However, for the unbeliever there is none of this. They are ultimately cast out on the sea of life, with all its uncertainty, without any sure and certain hope concerning the future. They do not have faith and thereby they do not have God and that means no hope. Amidst all the camouflaging of eternal issues and the pursuit of the pleasures of this life, there still remains the great uncertainty of death and beyond.
Moreover, they have no anchor for the soul in the turbulence of life. There are no everlasting arms underneath them promising to strengthen them and comfort them.
Oh what a fearful position it is to be unsaved. Is that you? You may have plenty of religion, but if you do not have Christ then all is not well. So come and find Christ as Saviour and enter into the joyous privileges of being a Christian.
As we come to the end of 2018 I simply ask: are you saved? The great rescue plan of God needs to be embraced by us all or else we eternally perish. The issues at stake could not be bigger. Life is passing away for us all. We have a limited number of years on this earth and then eternity dawned.
Let us get to the heart of the matter. The great problem we have is that of our sin. God in all of His beauty and holiness has banished us from His beautiful holy presence because our sin is repulsive to Him. Our plight is desperate and is summed up in Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Condemned to eternal non-hearing by our God is the dreadful consequence of our sin.
Oh what shall we do? All our best efforts are contaminated by our sins. We are left hopeless and helpless.
And then we hear the good news of the gospel. A Saviour has been provided; he is the long-promised one. His name is Jesus and he comes to save his people from their sins. He, as the sinless one, goes to bear the sins of many. Through His death on the cross, He, the eternally alive one, submits to death that we might have His eternal life. He dies my death that i might have his life. Such love.
So come and embrace the rescuer of the rescue plan; come and repent of your sins and believe in Jesus Christ. And as you know sins forgiven, you know eternal acceptance with God. You will be embraced by Him forever and He will not let you go. Oh what good news this is.
May we all be rejoicing in this great salvation as we come to the end of 2018
Paul has explained the glorious gospel of the glorious grace of our glorious God and then declares with overwhelming profundity in Romans 9:1-3a:
I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit – I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.
What a statement that is. He has such an overwhelming gospel love for his own people, the nation of Israel, that he would even wish himself to be accursed should that lead them into blessing in Christ.
Imagine that! He would even be happy to take eternal punishment through bearing the curse of God because of his sin. He would be willing to endure being cut off from Christ in order that others would enjoy eternal gospel blessing.
I must confess I stumble at that, I hesitate at that and yet I am overwhelmingly challenged by that. I feel that my heart is way away from the heart of the apostle Paul. My love for others is pitiful in comparison to his love.
But oh for some stirring in my heart to have some of this gospel love for my family, for my friends, for my colleagues, for my community, for my nations. Oh Lord stir me with gospel love.
Here is a great video displaying the power of the gospel. I found it so encouraging as how the same gospel that has won my heart has such transforming power to create a people for himself. I encourage you to spare 45 minutes.