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Monday, May 15, 2006

Lines in the Sand: Evangelism

In our currrent era, it is considered impolite to expose differences. Instead, "true love" is expressed by seeking common ground. However, the church (and individual believers) have lost their relevance as they have sacrificed the truths that make distinction. The following is a series devoted to drawing the line between genuine Biblical faith and not.

"Not everyone who says, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 7:21). The world is full of those who would call themselves Christian but are not. That's not information to celebrate, and we certainly can't take pride in knowing Christ while others may be deceived. ("For what do you have that you have not received?" We have nothing to boast in but Christ alone.) However, we should be motivated to proclaim the gospel to others, and to partner with those who do likewise.

But what is "the good news," our evangel?

Consider the list of five elements of the gospel that John Piper provided at the Together for the Gospel Conference:
    1. The historical events that took place. (ie. virgin birth, sinless life, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, ascension).
    2. The effects of the historical events. (ie. redemption, forgiveness, justification, etc.)
    3. How the effects of the historical events are transferred to us. (ie. by faith alone and not of works.)
    4. The truths about us in light of receiving the effects of the historical events. (ie. adoption as sons, friend of God, ambassador, etc.)
    5. Enjoying God forever because He has redeemed us by His gracious offer through faith in the historical work of His Son.
Whether you agree with Piper's list or not (which I believe is quite Biblical), my point is to notice that every element of the gospel is founded upon the historical events that took place. Paul seems to be saying this as well, when he said that Christ's death (for our sin), His burial, His resurrection and His appearance to many were of "firstmost importance" (1 Corinthians 15:1-6). The gospel is certainly more than an intellectual knowledge of historical events, but it can not be less than that. Without the historical events, you are without a gospel.

Yet many want to claim they are preaching "the good news" without mentioning any of these details. Or, just as confusing, they want to emphasize a higher element of the gospel (ie adoption as children) without discussing the foundational elements before it. Humanitarian aide, counseling and encouragement are good and biblical expectations for believers. However, without a presentation of the cross of Christ (at the bare minimum) you do not have the gospel. Without the gospel, there is no ultimately good news.

So why draw the line? It helps churches assess what they are doing. It helps believers assess what we are doing. If a man claims to have evangelized, or presented "good news" to a group, yet was able to avoid discussing the cross, our sin, or His payment, then we know we may have follow up to do. Not for our sakes, and certainly not so we can prove we are right. The stakes are much greater:
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 R510 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!" (Romans 10:13-15).
In God's amazing grace, He has allowed us to be fellow ministers of reconciliation as we declare the message of salvation. If He's done all of the work, the least we can do is desire to present it clearly.


  • At 10:10 AM, Anonymous Brad said…

    Piper's list is amazing.

  • At 1:15 PM, Blogger Charity said…

    I like the graphic! (and the series). I agree completely. What more loving pursuit could there be than humbly pursuing people with the gospel message? It's a more difficult road than just assuming everyone who claims to be a Christian or attends church, etc. actually is. I felt simultaneous joy and sorrow when, during our years at Finish Line, we saw many pastors become believers: joy at their salvation, but sorrow because for years they led others down the same wide path they themselves traveled, without a clue that its end was death. If God uses us to help remove the cloud from the eyes of a lost soul, what an honor and privilege.

  • At 7:00 PM, Anonymous mcgriff said…

    I have been thinking a lot about this "line in the sand" lately also. Ever since Sheperds and TFTG it has been at the front of the line. As I grow in my walk with the Lord, my conventions become stronger and stronger. However, what are the real "lines in the sand" that we should use.

    I mean I can worship with a brother that is post/mid trib, or one that is likes contemporary services. But I can not worship with a brother that denies the soverignity of God in the work of salvation. This, for me, is the ultimate line in the sand and I think that your series is an excellent extension of that.

  • At 7:40 PM, Anonymous Brad said…

    The zeal for holding lines is certainly admirable. I think we do well to remember, however, that the lines are not ours to draw wherever we would like.

    If we should be frightened of extending fellowship to one whom Christ does not recognize, I beleive we should be terrified of calling one illegitimate whom Christ claims as His own.

    All this to say that, yes, lines should be drawn; yes, they should be firmly held. But we had better make certain that we are drawing them where Christ has drawn them.

    Not every division between truth and falsehood is a division between brother and outsider. As all of us who have ever found ourselves having to grow in our understanding of the gospel ought to remember, sometimes people, even true believers, are in error.

    We must, I think, take great care, much greater than is generally taken, to distinguish between those doctrines declared by scripture, and those doctrines treated by scripture as the true demarcations between the saved and the damned.

  • At 2:11 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    Brad, you are right on, bro. Thanks for your thoughts!


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