Friday, February 4, 2011

Should I Dust Off My Feet?

We received the following email from John (not his real name):

"Thank you for all you do to reach the lost and to disciple the body of Christ! You have impacted me in more ways the words will ever say so 'thank you very much.'

"I have an interesting situation. I was truly and soundly converted after listening to 'Hell's Best Kept Secret' back in 2003. (It took a few rounds before I thought of the teaching as God revealing the truth to me--that I had never repented of sin and put my faith in Jesus Christ.)

Anyway, after years of growth and learning so much from you guys and many other sound, biblical teachers I'm daily confronted with this one fact: my wife and, actually, two of my children (adults now) along with their spouses and/or significant others are false converts. It seems to plague me sometimes because I am very concerned for their salvation. Yet, they are under the teaching of these preachers that not only shy away from teaching about sin, Hell and repentance but mock those that do. I have even been the brunt of that same kind of belittling talk with these same family members when I try to share the truth. I'm called 'religious' or 'fundamental' or even 'mean-spirited' because I'm convinced that they don't know of the danger of the position that they are in. It is a very difficult position to be in I must say.

"However, I feel that this has helped my walk and to get more and more into prayer because I know that I cannot effect change in their hearts; only God can. I guess here's my question: Am I only relegated to that (prayer) for them now? It seems like any time a conversation about the Lord comes up I'll maintain Biblical truth but get ridiculed or mocked. I wonder if saying anything at all is worth it or if in maintaining my stance becomes a hindrance to them. I almost wonder if Jerusalem has dried up and it's time to move on to Judea and Samaria now.

"What are your thoughts on this?"

John, we are always so very encouraged to hear testimonies of how God has used "Hell's Best Kept Secret" to bring people to genuine repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I feel for you, John. While my wife and daughters are all born again, most of my extended family is lost, but of the mindset they are right with God. Some have created gods in their own imagination to suit themselves, and others participate in false religions. They (at least some of them) see me as "judgmental" and "mean-spirited," especially when I dare to suggest that what they believe is not true, according to the Word of God.

While we can't know a person's heart with certainty, anyone who mocks a biblical presentation of the Law and the Gospel is not bringing forth fruit in keeping with repentance (Matt. 3:8); and they are likely believing a different gospel (Gal. 1:6-9)--one that cannot save them. They should examine themselves to see if they are even in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).

It's a painful situation to sense that those closest to you are deceived, comfortable in their sin and religion, living in a state of false conversion. You want to take them by the shoulders and plead with them, weeping, until they come to their senses and come to a knowledge of the truth. You realize there is nothing you can do to save them, because salvation is of the Lord (Ps. 3:8; 2 Thess. 4:13). But the thought of someone you love perishing in their sin (Luke 13:1-5) and spending eternity in Hell (Rev. 20:11-15) is, at times, just too much to fathom.

Now, to your questions.

You ask, "Am I only relegated to pray for them now? It seems like any time a conversation about the Lord comes up I'll maintain Biblical truth but get ridiculed or mocked."

The dictionary defines the word "relegate" this way: "to assign to an obscure place, position, or condition;" and "to move to a position of less authority, importance, etc.; demote." John, not to kick you when you're down, but never underestimate the power of prayer. Remember, "the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working" (James 5:16b). Don't relegate yourself to pray for your lost loved ones. Instead, be resolved to pray for them. Prayer is powerful. God hears the prayers of His people (Prov. 15:8).

If your family continues to mock you when you present biblical truth to them, there may come a point, if it hasn't already come, when continuing to present them with the Gospel will be akin to casting your pearls before swine (Matt. 7:6).

I appreciate what Pastor John MacArthur has to say about this. He wrote:
"Because of this principle Jesus Himself did not do miracles for unbelievers (Matt. 13:58). Respect for what is holy, not merely contempt for dogs and swine, motivates the principle of loving enemies (Matt. 5:44). That verse governs dealings with one's enemies, while this principle governs how one handles the gospel in the face of those who hate the truth" (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, p. 44).
John, you also wrote: "I wonder if saying anything at all is worth it or if in maintaining my stance becomes a hindrance to them."

John, the hindrance in your loved ones' lives is not your stand for the truth. It's their love of sin--a love that allows them to justify trampling under their feet the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:26-31). And it's that love of sin that makes the cross foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18) and a stumbling block (1 Cor. 1:23) to them.

You have no choice but to maintain your stance for Christ (Matt. 10:32-39). At the same time, you can be strategic about how you do that. The time may be upon you when, at least for now, you stop heralding the Gospel to your family. But be watchful (1 Cor. 16:13) for opportunities to speak the truth in love (1 Cor. 16:14).

Being strategic in your approach can include the following:

1. Start reading the Bible to your wife, as a time of devotion. Don't treat as a time between teacher and student, but as a time of husband nurturing his wife. Answer her questions as they come, but otherwise let the Word of God speak--praying that the Holy Spirit would allow her to see and understand with spiritual eyes.

2. Point her to solid teachers. Allow her to listen to them on her own. Tell her that you would like to hear her thoughts about the message(s).

3. Be salt and light in your wife's life (Matt. 5:13-16). Let her continually see you live for Christ, as one who truly loves his Savior. Serve her, with love for her, as one who has been freed from the bonds of sin (Gal. 5:13).

3. Apologize to her and your kids--not because you are wrong regarding your biblical positions, but because of any argument you have had as a result (Eph. 4:30-32).

4. And through it all, you must continue to love your wife the way the Lord loves the church and gave Himself up for her (Eph. 5:25-28). You must love her and die to yourself for her, regardless of her responses to your kind actions or genuine faith. Outdo her in showing honor. And, if/when she responds inappropriately, don't respond in like manner (Rom. 12:9-19).