Sunday, October 6, 2013

#39) Meditations on Evangelism

#39) Meditations on Evangelism
delivered on 06OCT2013

Evangelism is a topic many people enjoy hearing about. It's one of those subjects that makes us feel encouraged as we listen to the stories. It makes us feel thankful for all the faithful Christians who are working to further advance the kingdom of God. Unfortunately, too few of us will go beyond this. When confronted with an opportunity, we make excuses as to why we shouldn't bother anybody. We may become nervous and try to avoid any awkward moments. We may become afraid of how the other person will respond. Then again, maybe it's because we simply don't understand what evangelism is really all about. It's my hope that, as we dive into the Scripture, we can unpack what it teaches on the subject and then apply it to our lives.

The word translated as "evangelist" is only used only 3 times in all of the New Testament and literally means "a bringer of good tidings". The 3 passages it can be found in are Acts 21:8; Ephesians 4:11; & 2 Timothy 4:5.

Acts 21:8
On the next day we left and came to Caesarea, and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him.

Ephesians 4:11
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,

2 Timothy 4:5
But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Based on Ephesians, we can clearly see this is an important and distinctive role given from God just as were apostles, prophets, and, presently, pastors and teachers. In Acts, we see Phillip is described as the evangelist. Notice the definite article. There was no confusion that Phillip was given this particular role by God for the purpose of equipping the saints and building up the body of Christ. Interestingly enough, Phillip is the only person who is personally identified as being an evangelist in the official sense. Acts chapter 8 covers some of his works as an evangelist. The closest other spot we come is the passage in 2 Timothy.

2 Timothy 4:1-5
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

If I were to make the statement that not all people are called to be pastors, I'm fairly certain there would be unanimous approval from everyone in here. What about teachers? Doesn't James 3:1 urge that not many should become teachers? Considering pastors and teachers are official roles, does it stand to reason that not all are called to fill the official role of evangelist? I would say this is a valid statement. So, does this exempt Christians from evangelism? Does it exempt those Christians who do not fill the official role of teacher from going out and teaching others? Not at all! Look again at 2 Timothy 4:5. Notice that Paul is not actually referring to Timothy as an evangelist. Though the same word is being used here, we can see it is only being used as a reference point. Paul is not saying Timothy is filling the role of evangelist. He's telling him he needs to do the work of an evangelist. Timothy was called to do a great many things though filling the official role of evangelist was not one of them. Some are spiritually gifted in specific ways and God places those people in unique positions. Pastors and teachers fit that bill as well. Evangelists are no different. That being said, there was no confusion that he was to perform the duties of evangelism nonetheless.

To further drive home this point, we need to look at another word. Whereas the word translated as "evangelist" is used only 3 times in the New Testament, its root word is used 55 times and is translated multiple ways. It is translated as "preach" 23 times, "preach the Gospel" 22 times, "bring good tidings" 2 times, and other methods another 8 times. The very foundation of the word is clearly one of great importance. In fact, without it, we can't even accomplish the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:19-20
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Though the word used in that passage is not the same word we were originally discussing, it is very closely tied to it. Remember, though not all are called to be teachers, all Christians are called to teach to some degree. Christ Himself has commanded it! So how are we to accomplish this? How do we make disciples of all nations? How can we make disciples of all nations unless they first hear the good news? How is this accomplished? Through evangelism!

Romans 10:13-15
for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”

The word translated as "bring good news" is none other than the root of evangelist. I love how the KJV words it: "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" It actually uses the same Greek word twice in the same sentence. Though some have the supernatural gift of evangelism so that they may fill the specific role, God has told us He counts it as a beautiful thing when His own share His gospel with the lost. Perhaps many can relate to Danny Akin when he says, "I don't have the gift but I do have the responsibility."

Sadly, evangelism has steadily been reduced to the other guy's job. It's taken a back seat to the struggles of daily life and the already tight time constraints. As the bride of Christ, my fear is that we've simply lost our evangelistic fervor. How can this be when Scripture tells us the very souls of men are at stake? I love the way Charles Spurgeon had a zeal for evangelism. He understood God's sovereignty yet he also understood God's natural method for bringing new saints to Himself. Spurgeon said, "We believe in predestination; we believe in election and non-election: but, notwithstanding that, we believe that we must preach to men, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and ye shall be saved,' but believe not on him and ye be damned."

We, as Christians, have a duty to proclaim Christ crucified. We have a duty to evangelize to the lost. To some, it comes easy. To others, it is a work and a chore. Regardless, we are all called to perform this work just as Paul charged Timothy. After all, it isn't called work without good reason. It may not always be easy but it is always critically important. John MacArthur makes a very valid point regarding the method of evangelism. He states, "It is also important to note that the purpose of evangelism -- whether by an ordinary Christian to a neighbor, by a pastor to the unsaved in his congregation, or by an evangelist to the general public -- is to carefully but simply help unbelievers become aware of their sinfulness and lostness and to proclaim Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Lord. Any human manipulation in that process, no matter how well intentioned, always becomes a barrier to genuine belief."

In John 4, we see this was the method Christ used in evangelizing to the Samaritan woman at the well. While speaking to her of living water and never thirsting, he also made it abundantly clear that she was living in a life of sin by in the way he speaks of her living with another man out of wedlock and her multiple previous marriages. There was no promise of health, wealth, and prosperity. There was no sinner's prayer. It was a clear cut method of lovingly pointing out her desperate need for a Savior while telling her the way to eternal life. Psalm 90:8 says, " You have placed our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your presence." There will come a day when the unsaved will hear of their inability to save themselves. Would you rather they hear it from you first or from God Himself on the day of judgment?

To take another look at Spurgeon's example, he took this approach quite often. He was not afraid of how others would respond. He was more concerned with how God would judge. In his sermon, "Compel Them To Come In," regarding those who simply feel they cannot believe or perhaps find it to be an inconvenient time, he stated, "No, my friend, and you never will believe if you look first at your believing. Remember, I am not come to invite you to faith, but am come to invite you to Christ....Our first business has not to do with faith, but with Christ. Come, I beseech you, on Calvary's mount, and see the cross. Behold the Son of God, He who made the heavens and the earth, dying for your sins. Look to Him, is there not power in Him to save? But did I hear you whisper that this was not a convenient time? Then what must I say to you? When will that convenient time come? Shall it come when you are in hell? Will that time be convenient? Shall it come when you are on your dying bed, and the death throttle is in your throat -- shall it come then? Or when the burning sweat is scalding your brow; and then again, when the cold clammy sweat is there, shall those be convenient times? When pains are racking you, and you are on the borders of the tomb? No, sir, this morning is the convenient time."

It's this kind of passion that needs to be rekindled in the church. We need to recover our heart for the lost. Then, we need to take action and evangelize. Sadly, this problem isn't new to our culture. In fact, Jesus himself addressed the situation and even gave the remedy.

Matthew 9:37-38
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

At the 9Marks conference, it was said that "no church is accidentally evangelical. It must be intentional." If we are met with resistance, it shouldn't discourage us. After all, we aren't saving anybody. We're simply going fishing. God does all the work in salvation but He has commanded us to preach His word to the lost so that He might then follow through and perform His miraculous work. Trust that God is in control and remain faithful. As the old hymn says, "Trust and obey." Evangelism shouldn't be the arduous duty that this day and age makes it out to be. It doesn't need to be feared nor should it be limited to weekly church events where there's safety in numbers. Evangelism is a joyful privilege that encompasses our entire lives. It's an opportunity to preach Christ crucified and extend the offer of eternal life to all who will believe. Is there no sweeter encouragement? Sadly, not all will see the glory of Heaven but, rest assured that not a single one of God's elect will see the fires of Hell.

Closing with one final quote from Spurgeon, "That is why we preach! If there are so many fish to be taken into the net, I will go and catch some of them. Because many are ordained to be caught, I spread my nets with eager expectation. I never could see why that should repress our zealous efforts. It seems to me to be the very thing that should awaken us to energy -- that God has a people, and that these people shall be brought in. When I cease to preach salvation by faith in Jesus, put me into a lunatic asylum, for you may be sure that my mind is gone."

Monday, July 22, 2013

#38) A Superior Covenant

HEBREWS 8:1-13 (delivered 21JUL2013)

Hebrews spends a great deal of time contrasting the Old Covenant from the New Covenant. Given the audience, this only makes sense. The main point of focus in Chapter 8 is how the New Covenant in Christ is far superior to the Old Covenant. To clearly show this, the author makes several distinctions that would have hit home with the Jewish Christians to whom he was speaking. I'd like to cover several of these as well as a few highlights.

Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,

TAKEN HIS SEAT - This is something that set apart Christ from the high priests of the Old Testament. Hebrews 10:11 says, "Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;" However, Hebrews 1:3 says, "When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high." The work of the Old Testament priest was never finished. He continually stood making sacrifices for his people. The work of Christ was finished at the cross. It was thorough, complete, and fully adequate.

AT THE RIGHT HAND - This is important to note. Most people understand the simple fact that Jesus sits at the Father's right hand. In fact, we can even see this is Psalm 110:1 where it plainly states this. However, there is more to it. The Sanhedrin were a very powerful group of ruling elders among the Jewish people. When they would be holding their court of law, two scribes would be in attendance. The scribe on the left would be in charge of tallying up the votes for condemnation while the scribe on the right would be responsible for tallying the votes of acquittal. The imagery is of the High Priest sitting at the right hand of God, writing acquittals for His people. John 3:17 tells us, "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him." Apart from Christ writing our acquittal, we all stand condemned.

a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.

A MINISTER IN THE SANCTUARY - What does it mean when it says that Christ is a minister in the sanctuary? In Hebrews 7:25, it says, "He always lives to make intercession for them." Though Christ's work in completed, He still makes intercession for us with the Father. This was part of the ongoing work of Christ. His work was so grand, it would have continual and lasting effects long after it was finished. Though our High Priest is now seated, He still makes intercession on our behalf.

TRUE TABERNACLE - (read Wisdom of Solomon 9:8 and note on the book itself)

For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer.

ALSO HAVE SOMETHING TO OFFER - If the work of Christ is finished, what else could He possibly have to offer? This goes back to Verse 2 where it says that Christ continues to minister. Though the sacrificial work has been completed, Christ's priestly duties are still very active. What was the purpose of the priest but to make intercession on behalf of their people? Without Christ, we could never go before the Father. We could never ask forgiveness. We could never offer up thanks to the Lord. We could never seek communion with God. The only reason this is possible is because, just as the Old Testament priests offered reconciliatory services between God and man, Christ actively serves in this same role. Any good work we do today is only recognized because Christ is offering that up to the Father on our behalf.

Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law;

IF HE WERE ON EARTH, HE WOULD NOT BE A PRIEST AT ALL - Simply put, Jesus came from the line of Judah. The priests were all from the tribe of Levi. From an Old Testament perspective, Christ would not have qualified to be a priest. This is covered in Hebrews 7:13 where it says, "For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar." The Levitical priests were founded upon the Law whereas Christ's priestly role is founded on the oath of God as seen in Hebrews 7:21.

who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “SEE,” He says, “THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN.”

A COPY AND SHADOW - This goes back to Verse 2 where it speaks of the true tabernacle. The author of Hebrews touches on this more in Chapter 9 when he says, "For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." I'll refrain from going too much further into that passage as it'll probably be covered next week.

WARNED BY GOD - This is just quoting Exodus 25:40 where God warns Moses to make the tabernacle exactly as He had described to him on the mountain. It may have only been a copy or a shadow but it still needed to reflect the actual thing in the best manner available on this Earth.

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.

COVENANT - A covenant is nothing more than a mutual agreement. In all covenants, there are promises made. Here, we see the New Covenant is being referred to as the better covenant that is enacted on better promises. As per Hebrews 7:12, "For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also." By now, we can probably see this is because the Old Covenant was based on a copy and shadow whereas the New Covenant is based on Christ and God's grace. With a new High Priest under a new covenant came the necessity of a change in the law. No longer as we bound to a law that we are unable to fulfill. We are now bound to the One who fulfilled it for us.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.

FAULTLESS - The Old Covenant was still a very real covenant between God and man but it wasn't without its faults. Jeremiah prophesied that a new covenant would be coming. Despite this, when it finally came, countless Jews rejected it. Even today, they cling to the Old Covenant instead of accepting the New Covenant which God promised was coming so many years ago through His prophet.

(QUOTE) Verses 8-12 are a direct quote of Jeremiah 31:31-34.


NEW COVENANT - All too often, we tend to look at the Old Testament with antiquity. We view it as being something for a people of another time. We then look at the New Testament as something entirely different. While this is true to a point, we must also see the relation between the two. While the New is definitely superior, it isn't all that different on a foundational level. In fact, while they can be contrasted all day long, they can also be compared. The New Covenant is really just a RE-newed Old Covenant. For instance, both have a High Priest. Both have a blood sacrifice. Both have reconciliatory offerings. There are many parallels. That being said, we also must take into account that it is "not like the covenant which I made with their fathers" as verse 9 says. It is far superior!


FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE - Under the Old Covenant, continued obedience was a requirement. Israel did not continue in their obedience and, as a result, they were no longer in God's care. This is just one way in which the New Covenant is superior to the Old. Be thankful God's care for us is not contingent upon our strict and unwavering obedience!


WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS - This is not a new concept by any means. In fact, the Old Testament Law was also meant to be written on the hearts of Israel. Deuteronomy 30:14 says, "But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it." We see several examples where this was the case with the righteous:
Psalm 37:30-31 - The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, And his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; His steps do not slip.
Psalm 40:8 - I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.
Psalm 119:11 - Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.

Unfortunately, this was not the case with the unrighteous. They ignored the Law of God. They refused to keep it in their hearts.
Deuteronomy 5:29 - Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!

Just as was the original intent of the Old Covenant Law, so is the renewed intention. Of course, it is in a superior manner. Whereas Israel had the Law on tablets which could be kept in their heart, we have the Law written within us and have the Spirit to guide us. As 2 Corinthians 3:3 says, "being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." We can see this in both Ezekiel and John:
Ezekiel 11:19-20: And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.
John 14:17: "that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you."


NOT TEACH - This is in no way minimizing the importance of teaching sound biblical doctrine. Nor is it saying we are to neglect teaching others about Christ. It is referring to the Helper who would be sent as a part of the New Covenant.
1 CORINTHIANS 2:13: which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

Without going over all the verses, similar statements can be found in 1 Thessalonians 4:9 and 1 John 2:27. Isaiah 54:13a tells us, "All your sons will be taught of the LORD;" All of our authority in teaching comes from the Word of God. Apart from it, we can't make any declarations regarding God. He has given us His revealed Word along with His Spirit. Again, this is not minimizing the importance of teaching sound doctrine. After all, teachers have a very stern warning against teaching falsehoods. This is because of the importance of the position. That is not the point being taught here. Interestingly enough, the Greek words used are two different words. The first instance is "ginosko" (jee-no-sko) which refers to an intimate knowledge, oftentimes used with a sexual connotation. The second instance actually uses the word "eido" (ay-doe) which is simply basic knowledge or perception. With Scripture, all can come to know of God. However, only those moved by the Spirit will come to KNOW (gee-no-sko) God. His illuminating Spirit is our primary teacher who teaches in accordance with the Word. The superior part is that, instead of being told to know the Lord, we will have a personal and intimate knowledge of Him that cannot be taught by any mere person. It is taught by God Himself.


REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE - This is infinitely superior to the Old Covenant in that the Old never actually covered their sins. God never truly forgave sins as the blood of animals was not worthy. The blood sacrifices were all temporary and had to be repeated. This is because they were only foreshadowing the one true sacrifice that was yet to come. In Christ, our sins are not merely temporarily covered. They are forever forgiven and God remembers them no more.

When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

READY TO DISAPPEAR - All of the Old Testament pointed to the coming of Christ. The priests, prophets, sacrifices, etc were all merely types that foreshadowed Christ. Just as Hebrews 7:12 says the covenant changed out of necessity due to a change in priesthood, this verse shows how the New Covenant rendered the Old obsolete. Interestingly enough, the author of Hebrews specifically states the obsolete was "ready to disappear." The sacrificial system had been abolished when the temple veil was torn from top to bottom giving men direct access to God. Within only 5 years of Hebrews being written, the physical temple of Jerusalem was destroyed along with the altar. By the author stating it was getting ready to disappear, it makes you wonder if he had any idea how spot on his statement really was.