Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My Philosophy For A Gospel-Centered Life




My circumstances are God’s context for evangelism opportunities (Philippians 1:12-14).

Christ proclaimed is my joy (Philippians 1:15-18a).

Christ magnified in my life is my expectation and hope (Philippians 1:18b-21).

I will disciple and encourage other Christians in the proclamation of the gospel (Philippians 1:22-26).

Living, proclaiming, defending and suffering for the gospel is my life’s work (Philippians 1:27-30).

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Have You Left the Love You Had at First? (Audio)

The following audio is of the sermon I preached this morning during the Calvary Chapel Downey's men's breakfast. If you are unable to use the above player, you can listen to and/or download the audio, here. A lower quality version (smaller file size) can be downloaded, here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Have You Left the Love You Had at First?

The following is the text for the sermon I will preach tomorrow at Calvary Chapel Downey. The occasion is the church's monthly men's breakfast. Lord willing, I will post the audio for the sermon later in the day, tomorrow.

Scripture Reading:

Revelation 2:1-7

Introduction:

This morning I have a very important question for each of you—a question that also serves as the title of this morning’s message. Have you left the love you had at first?

To help all of us answer that question we will first determine to what “first love” Jesus is referring. The answer is what (or who) you might think, and it is also what you might not think. Once we’ve identified our “first love,” we will look at Jesus’ commands in our passage—commands we must obey if we are ever to recapture that all-important “first love.” We will focus our attention this morning on Revelation 2:2-5.

But before we do, before we identify the “first love,” or more literally “the love you had at first,” and answer this morning’s important question, let’s spend a little time looking at the Church in Ephesus.

It’s important to consider this. Picture any modern-day city in the world—a city known for its decadence and depravity—cities like San Francisco, New Orleans, or Rio de Janeiro, and you have the City of Ephesus two thousand years ago. In addition to all of the various lusts of the flesh, the people of Ephesus were steeped in the worship of false gods. Ephesus was a center for the most illicit forms of idolatry you can imagine.

Sadly, some of the false teaching associated with the idolatry of the day was beginning to make its way into the Church at Ephesus, through a few false teachers. Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus, in part, to restore order to the church. It was a difficult time for the young and timid Timothy, hence Paul’s writing of the two letters we have in Scripture that are addressed to Timothy.

Commendations for the Church at Ephesus:

By the time of John’s writing of Revelation, some thirty to forty years after the writing of Paul’s letters to Timothy, the battle with false teachers, namely the Gnostics, still raged. Yet, in spite of the turmoil over teaching, Christ saw much that was good in the Church at Ephesus.
I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. – Revelation 2:2-3
Jesus Christ, the omniscient God of the Universe, knew everything there was to know about the Church at Ephesus—just as He knows all there is to know about every local assembly within His Body, the Church. Yes, God is watching. He knew there was much to commend about the Church at Ephesus and, as the loving Lord that He is, He chose to let the Church at Ephesus know, via his letter to the church, that their good works had not gone unnoticed by Him.

Jesus commended the church for the manner in which it toiled. The Greek word, here, is “kopos,” which literally means to engage in excessive labor of the type and intensity that produces grief and sorrow. The church did more than work hard in their ministry. They worked to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion.

Jesus commended the church for the way they patiently endured. The Church at Ephesus not only patiently endured the laborious task of ministry in a Christ-hating world, but they also endured the attack of the Enemy by way of false teaching outside the church, and the false teachers who, from inside and outside the church, tried to steer the church away from the truth of God’s Word.

Jesus commended the church for their integrity, in that the church refused to abide evil people and evil behavior. The Church at Ephesus set themselves apart as a holy congregation, struggling to remain unstained by the world. The American Church seems to be struggling a great deal, right now, in this area.

Sadly, more and more otherwise solid teachers and shepherds are setting aside wisdom and discernment when it comes to contemporary false teachers and their unbiblical doctrines. They are literally embracing false teachers as brothers in an unbiblical attempt to establish unity with whom the Lord would have us separate, for the sake of the purity of the Church. In doing so, otherwise good pastors and teachers are allowing evil doctrines such as modalism to have an open door to the true Body of Christ. It is like they are turning a pack of elephants loose on a daycare center.

Jesus commended the Church at Ephesus much the same way the apostle Paul commended the Bereans.
The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble then those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. – Acts 17:10-11
According to Revelation 2:2, the Christians in Ephesus “tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.”

Sadly, there are those, today, who tout themselves as “apostles.” They claim to have new revelation from God that supersedes and contradicts His Word. They claim to be miracle workers, yet every hospital remains full. The miracles seem to be reserved only for those who pay top dollar to attend an event at an arena or stadium; or the miracles are reserved for those who give most generously to their “ministries.” They claim to be prophets who, it would appear, are not required to maintain the same level of accuracy as the God-ordained prophets of old.

Jesus commended the Ephesian believers for their testing of the false prophets. Jesus has not changed. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He will no less commend His church today for testing, exposing, and confronting the false prophets of our age. And I believe the flipside is also true. Our Lord is not pleased when we do not do more to protect His Church by testing, exposing, and confronting today’s false prophets who are, in every sense of the word, blasphemers of our God.

Then, in verse three, we see that Jesus once again commends the Ephesians for their patient endurance and their toil (or grief-causing labor). Typically, in ancient Jewish writing, to repeat a word, phrase, or thought is to give that which is being repeated a great deal of emphasis. So, the Ephesians’ patient endurance and toil must have been extraordinary, at the time.

But this time, Jesus adds to the commendation that the Ephesians toiled and patiently endured “for [His] name’s sake.” I appreciate what John Gill, the great theologian of the 18th Century, wrote concerning this verse.
And for my name's sake hast laboured: which may refer either to enduring sufferings for Christ's name's sake, for his Gospel's sake, for righteousness sake, for the sake of the elect, and for the sake of the honour, glory, and interest of Christ; or to labouring in the ministry, not for filthy lucre sake, nor for party sake, but for the honour of Christ, and the good of souls; and there never was an interval in which this was more true.
I believe, based on my study of the passage, that Gill’s second suggested interpretation is likely the more accurate of the two. And I’ll explain why a little later. The Church at Ephesus was to be commended not only for the positive labors through which they endured much, but also that they entered into and maintained such labor for the honor, glory, and praise of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yet, unfortunately, as is the case with a growing segment of the Body of Christ in America, something was missing—something important—something essential to the life, growth, and effectiveness of the Church at Ephesus.

The Ephesians Abandoned the Love They Had at First:

Jesus said the following, as written by the apostle John, in Revelation 2:4:
But I have this against you, that you abandoned the love you had at first. – Revelation 2:4
There is little debate as to what the “first love” to which Jesus is referring represents.

The fact that Jesus commended the Church at Ephesus for several godly characteristics indicates that the level of abandonment mentioned in verse four was not tantamount to apostasy. The church had not abandoned Christ altogether. Nonetheless, the rebuke is a harsh one.

What Jesus is describing, what we’re seeing in verse four, is that the believers in Ephesus had a love for Christ and a love for their Christian brethren that had and was continuing to diminish over time. The love the Ephesian believers were abandoning, the love the Ephesians were leaving behind was a love for the One who saved them from their sins and the ones with whom they enjoyed the most intimate spiritual fellowship—Jesus Christ and His Church.

And nothing has changed during the last two thousand years.

Like the American Church of today, the Church at Ephesus excelled at ministering in the name of Jesus Christ, but they found themselves too busy and weary to spend any time with or to enjoy wonderful fellowship with Jesus Christ. The Ephesian Christians were doing the right things, but they were doing them in such a way as to reveal to Christ a cold, repetitious obedience instead of a joyful, loving obedience. They became and were continuing to become redeemed creatures of habit.

I know that has been true more than once in my life.

Like growing portions of the American Church of today, the Church at Ephesus loved Jesus and loved His Church, but, over time, that love had grown cold. The Church at Ephesus, over time, replaced vibrant orthopraxy (the application of their faith), which was built upon solid biblical orthodoxy (the doctrines of their faith), with lifeless orthopraxy and orthodoxy. In other words, the Church at Ephesus was going through the right motions in the name of Jesus; but they were doing so without the zeal, the fire, the passion, and the love they once had as newborn babes in the faith—as those with the wide-eyed exuberance and joy of the Lord that so often marks the newly regenerated lives of those who are in Christ.

Their love was not gone. Their love had grown cold. Has yours?

For those of you, here, who are genuine followers of Jesus Christ—born-again children of the Most High God—I want to ask you a few important questions.

Why are you here this morning? Are you here because of your love for Christ and your love for your Christian brothers? Are you here because of your love for the unbeliever you may have brought with you this morning? Or are you simply here because this is what you do one Saturday morning each month. Are you here already thinking about the other things you have planned for the day?

How is your time in the Word of God? Are you reading it every day? Are you reading it occasionally? Are you reading it at all? Ray Comfort taught me an important lesson when he said, “No Bible, no breakfast. No read, no feed.”

If you are reading the Bible, why and how are you reading it? Are you reading it as if it were a classroom assignment or homework? Are you reading it simply because you know you should? After all, that’s what Christians do, right? They read their Bibles. Or do you read your Bible as one who is deeply in love with the Author and can not wait to share with others, believer and unbeliever alike, what God has taught you in His Word?

Are you involved in ministry of any kind? Usher? Children’s Sunday school teacher? Bible study leader? Administration? Outreach? Youth Ministry? Maintenance? Parking lot attendant? Security? Prayer ministry? Pastoral ministry?

Why? Why are you involved in ministry, today? Do you love serving the Lord and His Church as much as you once did?

Is your service an expression of your love for the Lord?

Is your service an act of worship unto the Lord?

Or has your service to the Lord become more of a vocation than a ministry?

If you are in full-time ministry, do you refer to coming to the church or office as “going to work?”

If you serve on a voluntary basis, do you now serve to justify your hobbies and interests that have nothing to do with Christ? Do you see your hobbies and interests as something you deserve, since you have given your time, talents, and resources to the church?

Speaking of church: why will you come to church, tomorrow? Before you answer the question in your mind, take a moment of pause. Before you quickly say, “to worship the Lord,” stop and think.

Will you fill a seat tomorrow morning because you want to express your love to the Lord and worship Him in spirit and in truth? Or will you come because that’s what you’ve grown accustomed to doing on Sunday morning?

How far into the pastor’s sermon will your mind begin to drift toward how you anticipate spending your Sunday afternoon—a well-deserved nap? A little “Linsanity” via the NBA? Watching the final round of this week’s PGA Tournament? The “honey-do” list?

My brothers in Christ, have you left the love you had at first? Has your love for Christ and His church grown cold, even a little? Have you become like the believers in first century Ephesus? Do you serve Christ well, but love Him less?

Be honest with yourselves. Be honest with your brothers in Christ who should be here this morning not just for themselves, but to edify you and hold you accountable, in love.

Have you left the love you had at first?

Jesus’ Three-Fold Command:

Having commended the Ephesian Church for its ongoing and tenacious work for Christ, and having chastised the same church for possessing a now-diminished love for Christ and His Church, Jesus gives the Ephesian Christians a three-fold command to right the wrong—to return to the level of love and devotion they had when Christ first saved them.

Look again at Jesus’ words in Revelation 2:5.

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

The three commands in this verse are “remember,” “repent,” and “do.”

Remember

Jesus’ first command is for the Ephesians, and for those today whose love for Christ has grown cold, is to “remember therefore from where you have fallen.” The verb in this command is in the present tense. In other words, Jesus is commanding the Ephesians to keep on remembering, or to never forget.

And what is it Jesus wants them to never forget? He never wants them to forget from where they had fallen.

The phrase “you have fallen” is in the perfect tense, which means the fall about which Jesus is referring began quite some time before the command was issued. This is an old problem.

Now, it’s important to keep in mind that the apostle Paul organized the Church at Ephesus during his third missionary journey. While no one knows with absolute certainty, most agree that Paul’s third missionary journey lasted about three years and took place during the early to mid-50’s A.D.

Paul was martyred in Rome sometime around 68 A.D.

The apostle John penned the “Book of Revelation” in or about 95-96 A.D. So, presuming these dates are accurate, and since Jesus said the Ephesian’s love for Christ and His church began to wane long before Jesus gave the letters to the seven churches in Revelation; then it is not unreasonable to conclude that the Ephesians had maybe 10 years (give or take) of healthy, intimate fellowship with Christ and His Church before their love began to grow cold.

I find this so very interesting because this seems to have held true for the last 2,000 years. So often I hear Christians who have been believers for a decade or more wax nostalgic of their adventures and devotion as young Christians. And they do so as if they’ve outgrown the childlike love and zeal that marked their walk with Christ during those early years of faith.

Jesus commanded the believers in Ephesus, as means of recapturing their love for Christ and His Church, to remember and remember often who they were in Christ so many years ago. The apostle Paul encouraged his son in the faith, Timothy, to do the same thing. Turn to 1 Timothy 6:11-12.

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things [sins]. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Timothy was somewhat timid and discouraged. Paul wrote the letter, in part, to boost Timothy’s morale and to correct his timidity. This first letter to Timothy was likely penned by Paul shortly after his release from his first imprisonment in Rome, which would put the time Timothy received the letter somewhere around 63 A.D.

By this time, the Church at Ephesus was already embroiled by conflicts with false teachers—inside and outside the church. These conflicts were of the type for which Jesus commended them in Revelation 2:4. And the timeframe of Paul’s first letter to Timothy, coupled with the struggles the church was then facing, gives even more credibility that the falling Jesus references in Revelation 2:5 could have begun within ten years of the church’s formation.

Paul encouraged Timothy, in 1 Timothy 6:12, to take hold, look back, remember, the day he was saved and his subsequent baptism in front of many witnesses.

It’s important we keep in mind that baptism two thousand years ago was not practiced the way it is, today. There was no waiting period. There was no class to take. There was no waiting to send out invitations and to plan a church barbeque to coincide with the baptism. There was no waiting until the Smith’s pool could be heated.

When you came to faith in Christ two thousand years ago you were, more often than not, baptized immediately as an outward and public profession of your repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. And two thousand years ago, as is the case in certain parts of the world, today (not America, mind you), it actually cost a person something to make a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ. In the first century, making a public profession of faith in Christ could cost you your friends, your family, your home, your job, and often times your life.

Paul encouraged Timothy (and us as well), in times of timidity and discouragement, to look back to the zeal with which he not only turned to Christ, but also courageously and unashamedly testified to the free gift of salvation the Lord gave him. Paul encouraged Timothy to look back to the love he had for and the love he publicly expressed about his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Paul exhorted Timothy to remember these things.

And again, it was the start of the fall from their fervent love for Jesus and His Church that our Lord wanted the Ephesian believers to remember often. And if there is anyone here this morning whose love for Christ and His Church has been diminished over time, God likewise commands you to remember from whence you came.

Repent

Jesus’ second command to the Ephesian Church was just one word—one very important word—repent.

The fact Jesus issued the command with just a word can be seen as Jesus issuing the command with a great deal of force and authority—tantamount to a police officer commanding a suspect to “freeze!”

The command to repent is in the aorist tense, which means it was a command to be obeyed once and for all times.

According to theologians Bratcher and Hatton, the word “repent” in Revelation 2:5 can be rendered “change your ways,” “turn from your sins,” “turn your back on sinning,” “change your attitude,” and/or “turn back to God.”

Repentance is not merely a change of mind. It is a complete turning of one’s actions and mind, and moving in the opposite direction. Repentance is not a 90-degree turn, with an eye on two different directions—where you have been and where you hope to go. Repentance is not a 360-degree turn, moving in the opposite direction only to return to where you once were. No, repentance is a 180-degree turn. As Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:11, repentance is a fleeing from sin and, instead, pursuing Jesus Christ and Christ-like character.

Failing to love Jesus and His Church the way He and His Church ought to be loved is a sin. God commands His people to repent of sin, of missing the mark, of falling short of His glory, of violating His holy standard—His Law. He commands His people to repent of thinking, saying, doing that, which is inconsistent with His character and His Word. He commands His people to stop disobeying His commands. And what are the two greatest commands of God?

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

Jesus answered, “The most important is this, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:28-31

If your love for the Lord and His Church has waned, Jesus commands you to remember from whence you came, from where you have fallen, and to repent of the sin of letting that special, essential love for Christ and His Church grow cold.

Do

The third command Jesus gives in Revelation 2:5 is to “do.” The fact that Jesus follows the command to “repent” with the command to “do” or perform shows that repentance is more than a change of mind. Genuine repentance always brings forth works or fruit in keeping with repentance. The forerunner of Christ, John the Baptist, says as much.
But when he [John] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of Vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” – Matthew 3:7-10
And James, the half-brother of our Lord who once denied Him only to later become a leader of the first church in Jerusalem, makes it clear to the believers dispersed throughout the known world that faith without works is dead.
For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. – James 2:26
Now, let’s be clear. The fruit we bring forth in keeping with repentance and the good works we do are not works that in any way lead to or earn salvation. The opposite is true.

Any good spiritual fruit and any works that bring honor and glory to Christ occur as a result of salvation. We can only do that which is pleasing to God because we are saved. For the Christian is saved by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. And the person, who is truly born-again, will bear good fruit and will do good works. The person who does not bear spiritual fruit and good works, or cares not if they do, should examine himself or herself to see if they are even in the faith (see 2 Corinthians 13:5).

And what is it that Jesus commands the Ephesians to do? He commands them to “do the works they did at first.”

The command to do what they did at first points back to the “first love” in verse four. But here’s where it gets really interesting. You see; the Ephesians’ loss of love was not only for the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church. Their loss of love for Christ and His Church extended beyond Christ and His Church. Their loss of love extended to a specific kind of work and a specific group of people.

Let’s look back for a moment at verse two. Jesus commended the Ephesians for their labor within the church to maintain the purity of the church and her doctrine, for their patient endurance, for their refusal to bear with evil and those who perpetrated evil, for the way they tested false teachers and exposed them, for the way they bore the brunt of persecution because of the name of Christ, and for the way they tenaciously didn’t quit. They did not grow weary in doing what was good. These things the Ephesians had done from the beginning and continued doing.

But there is something missing from the list of positive efforts. Sadly, it is yet another reason why the American Church, by and large, resembles the Church at Ephesus, of two thousand years ago.

G.K. Beale, in his commentary on Revelation, put it well when he wrote:
Although they were ever on guard to maintain the purity of the apostolic teaching, the Ephesian Christians were not diligent in witnessing to the same faith in the outside world . . . The idea is that they no longer expressed their former zealous love for Jesus by witnessing to Him in the world.
The Ephesian Church, like so many segments of the American Church, stopped evangelizing. Their love for Christ and their love for His Church had grown cold, which was evidenced by the sad reality that they no longer had a fervent love for reaching the lost outside the church, with the gospel of Jesus Christ. They had made the slow downward slide of violating the two greatest commandments. Their diminished love for God and their love for people were evidenced by their lack of desire to tell other people about the love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy made available through the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ—the God-Man.

Jesus gave no commendation to the Church at Ephesus for the winning of souls. He did not commend the church for its evangelistic efforts.

Maybe the following example will help drive the point home.

Earlier this week the odometer on my 2003 Toyota Corolla crossed the 200,000-mile mark. I’m the original owner. I’ve had the car, now, for almost ten years. The car runs well, but the paint is all scratched up. There’s a big dent in the right side of the front bumper. The rubber steering wheel is starting to deteriorate. The carpets are stained. And sometimes I climb into the car wishing I had something newer. The only time I talk about my car is when I have to spend money on it to repair it, or when complaining about my long drive to the office.

Go back in time with me to the spring of 2003 when I bought my Toyota Corolla. It was a beautiful economy car—bright red, spotless interior, purred like a kitten, everything in the car was tight. Had Facebook and Twitter been popular in 2003, I would have tweeted photos of my new car. I would have told the world how thankful I was to God for providing me with new and reliable transportation.

But, even without Facebook and Twitter, I still managed to boast about my new car. Friends, family, co-workers—they all heard about my new car. Not only did I show them the car, but I also shared with them why I thought a Toyota Corolla would be a good car for them.

Whereas I once talked often and with joy about my car, today I rarely if ever talk about my car, just hoping it gets me to and from the office, without costing me too much money.

Think about it, my friends. Think back to your very first car—whether a jalopy or brand-new. Did anyone have to pull your teeth to get you to talk about your car? Or, if you’re married, how about the day you proposed to your future spouse? Did anyone have to pull your teeth to get you to talk about the wedding to come? Or how about the birth of a child? Did anyone have to beg you to share pictures of the baby? Come on! Be honest with yourself and with Christ!

We do what we care about and we talk about that which we love. We cannot honestly say that we love Jesus and love reaching the lost with the gospel if we’re not doing anything about it. And to say otherwise is to argue in favor of hypocrisy, not evangelism.

Is this you, today? Has your love for Christ, love for His Church, and love for the lost who, apart from repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, will spend eternity in Hell colder than it once was? When was the last time you shared the gospel with someone and pressed the issue to the point of losing a friend because you were more concerned for the soul of the friend than the personal benefits you derive from the friendship?

Your actual love for Jesus and your actual love for His Church is measured, in part, by the time, effort, and love you put into reaching the lost with Christ’s love. If you truly love Jesus you will tell others about Him—not begrudgingly, not to put a notch on your spiritual belt, not to merely check a box on your list of spiritual things to do. No. You will tell others about Jesus because you love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. You will tell others about Jesus because you love people—not simply as much as you love yourself, but because you love people more than you love yourself.

The Ephesians were engaged in the faithful study and defense of the Word of God. They were willing to toil and persevere for the name and cause of Christ. There are many churches that could say the same thing, here, in the United States. Yet many of these same churches have left their first love. Many of these same churches are no longer doing that which they likely did during the early days of the life of the church. They now love Jesus and His Church less because they no longer speak outside the four walls of the church about Jesus.

And their love for His Church is likewise diminished because they no longer care as they once did for seeing the Body of Christ built up and sustained through the conversion of lost sinners into saved saints. The concern of too many churches, today, for filling the seats and the pews is not out of a love for Christ, His Church, and the lost. Rather the motivating factor for filling the seats and the pews is to keep the lights on and the salaries paid; or to keep up with the mega-church down the street.

Of course, this sad description does not apply to all churches in America. The remnant of the Lord’s Church is alive and well in America. The Bride of Christ remains beautiful and continues to prepare for the Bridegroom’s return. But whether churches number in the tens of thousands or merely in the tens, too many churches have allowed their love for Christ and His Church grow cold because of their failure and lack of desire to build the Church by reaching the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Too many churches, today, build with brick and mortar instead of with love for people and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Exhortation: Remember, Repent, and Do!

Beloved: as the Lord commanded the Church at Ephesus to remember, repent, and to do the works they did at first; so, too, do I command you—not by my own authority, but by the authority of the Word of God. If you have left your first love; if your love for Christ and His Church is not what it once was, then you must remember, repent, and do the works you did at the first.

As Paul exhorted Timothy, as Jesus commanded the Church in Ephesus, so do I exhort and challenge you—to look back to the early days of your walk with Christ. Can you remember? Can you remember the zeal you had for sharing your newfound faith in Christ with others? Can you remember the risks you were willing to take to share the gospel with the lost? Can you remember how little you cared about what others thought of you, because you were more concerned with where people will spend eternity?

If you cannot remember those days because it was so very long ago, then your love for Christ, His Church, and the lost might be much colder than you think.

If you cannot remember those days because they never happened, then with love in my heart I encourage you to examine yourself to see if you are even in the faith. You may not be saved. You may have never come to genuine repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Oh, you may have made a profession of faith, and you may now be a well-respected member in Club American Christianity, but you may be a false convert. You may still be lost and bound for Hell. Examine yourself.

For my Christian brethren gathered here: remember from where you have fallen! Get back to that place, for the love and glory of Christ! Get back to the place you once were—the place where nothing but the Lord calling you home could stop you from sharing the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ with those who need to hear it most. Get back to that place where your love for Christ and His Church found its greatest expression—evangelism.

As Paul exhorted Timothy to flee from sin, and as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ commanded the Ephesians to repent of their diminished love for Him; so, too, do I call you to repent—not by my authority, but by the authority of the Word of God.

Don’t simply change your mind about reaching the lost with the gospel. Thinking about it and then doing nothing about it is not repentance. Repent of your diminished love for Jesus and His Church by re-engaging in the God-ordained, God-glorifying work of evangelism.

That’s right. Do the works you did at first. Continue to study and defend the Word of God. Continue to labor hard for the glory of Christ. Continue to test every teacher and expose those who are false and blasphemers of Almighty God. Continue to bear up under the wait of every trial for the sake of the Name that is above every name. For “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). And may every effort be fueled and motivated by a renewed love for Jesus Christ and His Church!

But doing these noble works, as essential and God-glorifying as they are, will be rendered incomplete if you are not actively engaged in reaching the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Love Jesus, His Church, and the lost so much that the gates of Hell will not prevail against any of your efforts to herald the gospel!

A Warning:

We will close with this. In the second half of verse five, we read: “If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”

Again, nowhere in this passage does Jesus talk about the Ephesians losing their salvation if they do not obey these commands. In fact, Jesus affirmed the genuineness and assurance of their faith in verse two by commending them. Had the Ephesian believers been apostate, false converts he never would have commended them for anything.

Remember, this passage is Revelation 2 is not about gaining or keeping salvation.

However, Jesus does make it very clear that there will be serious consequences if they do not repent. He would remove their lampstand. In other words, if the Church at Ephesus did not obey Jesus’ commands to remember, repent, and do the work they did at first, they would cease to be a light in the world, for the glory of Christ. He would remove the church from the churches that faithfully represent Christ in the world. They would continue on in dead orthodoxy until the church, as an organized body of believers, would fade out of existence. Sadly, that’s exactly what happened to the Church at Ephesus.

And just as sadly, this is happening to churches around America. They are fading from existence because they have allowed their love for Christ and His body to diminish, which resulted in a diminished love for the lost. As their love for Christ has grown cold, so has their love for His gospel. And as their love for the gospel has grown cold, so has their love for bringing His gospel to a lost and dying world. Many American churches, today, have either had their lampstand removed, or soon will.

My brethren, don’t let it happen here. May the lampstand of Christ be firmly rooted here, and may the light of Christ shine bright as His church, here, in this community fulfills the two greatest commandments, by fulfilling the Great Commission.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
My beloved brethren: remember, repent, and do the work.

Remember how hot your love for Christ and His Church burned during the early days of your faith in Christ. And remember with what love for Christ and zeal for His Church you shared the gospel with the lost.

Repent. Repent of a love grown cold. Repent of failing to love the lost—whether friend, neighbor, co-worker, family member, or stranger on the street. Repent of not glorifying Christ in your life by allowing your gospel light to be hidden under a basket. Repent of not loving the lost enough to be willing to lay down your very life so that others might be saved.

And do the work. Proclaim the gospel. As Jesus exhorted His apostles, so I exhort you.
So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Hell. – Matthew 10:26-28
May the words of Christ in Revelation 2:2-5 continually sound in your heart and mind until you obey. And may they continue to sound in your heart and mind, once you have obeyed, serving as a constant reminder of what Christ commands of you. Remember! Repent! Do the work!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Does the Bible Tell Us Enough?

Pictured, here, is Matt Johnston. Matt is from Australia and is a second-year student at The Master's Seminary (TMS). Matt and I have communicated via Twitter and Facebook, but today was the first time we met in person. It was a blessing to spend the afternoon getting to know another open-air preacher and to hit the streets with him. Matt joined me and the rest of the Third Street Herald team on Third Street Promenade, in Santa Monica.

Crowds were good, today. We were able to get several people throughout the afternoon to engage us in conversation, as we preached the gospel in the open-air.

As I preached for the first time, I noticed a man listening intently. When I finished, Matt began to preach. The man continued to listen. In fact, when Matt finished preaching and continued to engage a group of young teens in conversation, the man moved closer so he could hear what Matt was telling the youngsters.

A few minutes later, the man walked up to me and asked if he could talk to me. What followed was a wonderful, thirty-minute conversation with a man who was concerned about the state of his soul, wanting to know what he must do to be saved. By the end of the conversation, the man asked me where I went to church and, if he follows through, I expect to see him in church in the morning.

Early in the conversation, it became obvious to me that the very polite, respectful, and sincere man was not saved. He denied the deity of Christ, for one. He didn't do so in an antagonistic way. He did so as someone who lacked knowledge about the Messiah.

As our conversation turned to the Bible, the man raised an objection about the completeness of God's Word. When I referenced something Jesus said, as cited in Scripture, the man said, "Yeah, but the Bible doesn't have everything Jesus said. He could have said a lot of other things--things that are not in the Bible."

"It's true that the Bible doesn't contain every word Jesus spoke. He lived for thirty-three years and the Bible focuses on the last three years of his life. But the Bible tells us everything we need to know about who God is and what He expects of us." I said "Let me explain it this way.

"Jim (not his real name). I'm forty-eight years old. What if you were walking toward a 500-foot cliff and didn't know it. I see you and I know you are walking toward the cliff. I yell to you, 'Jim! Turn around! You're about to fall to your death!'

"Jim. Would it matter to you that you didn't know everything I ever said, over the last forty-eight years? Or would it be enough to know that what I told you about the cliff was true?"

"I see your point." He said.

"You see, by warning you about the cliff and telling you to turn around, I told you everything you needed to know to avoid death as a result of falling off the cliff." I said. "The same is true with the Bible. While the Bible doesn't tell us everything about Jesus or every word Jesus spoke in His life, the Bible tells us what we need to know to receive forgiveness for our sins against God and how we might enjoy eternal life with Jesus Christ, in Heaven."

The above analogy came to mind as I talked to Jim. I had never used it before this afternoon. While the analogy was by no means new revelation, I was very encouraged that the Holy Spirit allowed me to share the analogy with Jim.

I chose to share it in this blog post hoping it would be an encouragement to you, my Christian brethren who share the gospel with the lost, and that you might find it useful the next time someone presents the argument that the Bible doesn't contain all the words Jesus spoke during His lifetime.

Please pray for Jim (again, not his real name). Pray he does come to my church tomorrow morning. More importantly, pray he comes to genuine repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Oh. And yes, the Bible tells us enough.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

An Honest Atheist

Sergio is an honest atheist. He, unlike so many atheists, willingly admits to why he doesn't believe in the existence of God. He doesn't want anyone telling him what to do. While most atheists will hide behind the smoke screen of secular humanism, naturalism, or intellectualism there are those like Sergio who will not shy away from the heart of the matter, which is the matter of the heart.

Sergio doesn't want God telling him what to do because Sergio is an idolater. Sergio worships himself. He wants to be the god of his existence. In doing so, he, like other atheists, validates the truth of God's Word. Sergio loves his sin. Sergio is suppressing the truth of the existence of God and the reality of sin, judgment, and Hell. He is suppressing these truths by his unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).

Super Bowl Outreach Video Montage



I can't stop thinking about and praising God for what He did at the Super Bowl Outreach. It was a magnificent weekend of fellowship and gospel proclamation.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

UCLA Student Explodes



Sadly, Clarence is an example of a young man who grew up in the church as the son of a pastor--a young man who may have heard the gospel his entire life, but (if his behavior in the video is any indication) has never come to genuine repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There are so many young men and women like Clarence on college campuses around the United States. They are the byproduct of modern evangelism messages and methods that lack the truth and power of the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ.

Instead of churches looking inward to assess why so many people of Clarence's generation go to secular colleges and "walk away from the faith," churches blame the schools for luring Clarence's generation away from the church and Christ. The problem is not that young people are going to secular colleges and losing their faith. The problem is that young people are going to secular colleges having never truly repented and trusted in Jesus Christ for their salvation. Then, once they are exposed to the secular humanism taught on campuses of "higher learning," they sadly grow more comfortable in their sin and unbelief.

I will never forget my encounter with Clarence and how it motivated me to spend as much time as I can proclaiming the gospel on college campuses.

If you are not already aware, I would like to introduce you to the best college evangelistic ministry in the world--Change Collegian Network (CCN). If your heart is burdened as mine is for reaching lost souls on college campuses, please visit the CCN website and see how you might get involved with the organization.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Six Objections to and Misconceptions about 'The Way of the Master' (Part 6)

Objection #6 -- Living Waters (WOTM) is just stuck in the Law and don't understand the teaching of Grace.

Objection #6 is an example of the logical fallacy known as the "Straw-Man Argument." According to Dr. Jason Lisle, with Answers in Genesis, "The straw-man fallacy is when a person misrepresents his opponent’s position and then proceeds to refute that misrepresentation."

Here, in Objection #6, the misrepresentation is that Living Waters focuses too heavily on the Law (Ten Commandments). Having set up the straw man, the objector then proceeds to knock it down by errantly concluding that those who serve in the ministry or subscribe to the principles taught by the ministry therefore do not understand the beautiful doctrine of God's amazing grace.

I find that those who are most offended by the use of the Law in evangelism are those who have never looked at themselves in the mirror of God's Law.

Now, we must be careful, here. We must be careful not to assume that all who bristle at the use of the Law in evangelism are, therefore, false converts. I believe there are genuine followers of Jesus Christ who--although the Lord brought them to the recognition of their sinfulness before a holy, righteous, and just God and their violation of His Law--because they have been poorly taught, have been led to believe that the same Law that convicted them should not be shared with others. I can make such an observation because I was once such a Christian; and so was just about every other Christian I know who now uses the Law in evangelism.

However, with the above qualifying statement in mind, I also believe that many professing Christians who bristle at the use of the Law in evangelism are false converts. They bristle because they've yet to be brought to true repentance, because no one has ever explained to them the sinfulness of their sin. Oh, they have no problem referring to themselves as "sinners." Sadly, we can thank modern evangelicalism for this. We can thank modern evangelicalism for making sin against God a small thing in the minds of unregenerate people.

How is this done? This is accomplished by pastors, teachers, and evangelists who try to take the edge off of God's just and holy wrath, who try to take the bite out God's righteous judgment, by telling the unsaved that God wants people "just the way they are;" by saying things like, "hey, we're all in the same boat--we're all sinners;" and by not making any mention of judgment, punishment, and Hell so as not to offend the sensitivities of listeners who already hate God.

I understand that there are "evangelists" (and I shudder to even use the term with people like this) out there who are truly "stuck in the Law." They are pharisees--unloving legalists who prop themselves up, by tearing other people down, by using the Law of God as a hammer instead of a mirror. But the objector who sees any use of the Law in evangelism as being "stuck in the Law" are, themselves, the one who is "stuck in the Law." And they are likely "stuck in the Law" because they have yet to come to terms with their own sinfulness before God Almighty. They see themselves as a good person--one who is worthy of God's forgiveness, mercy, and grace. It is this kind of objector who doesn't understand grace. They cannot understand grace because they've tainted and cheapened God's grace with their own self-righteousness.

No, the Christian who employs God's Law in evangelism in a loving and biblical way is probably more intimately aware of God's grace than most other Christians--certainly more aware than the false convert. For it was and is the Law of God that brings the Christian to his or her knees, leaving him or her with only one response--to look up from their lowly position--to look up and gaze upon the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. As they gaze upward, they see their crucified Savior shedding His innocent blood to make propitiation for their sins. They also see an empty cross--a cross where the most loving and sacrificial of all work was finished. The cross could not defeat Him and the grave could not hold Him. For He defeated sin and death by the power and majesty of His glorious resurrection.

And it is the Law of God that brings the unregenerate sinner to the understanding that it is a broken and contrite heart that God will not despise. It is the Law of God that God Himself uses to break the lost sinner's heart of stone so He can replace it, by His grace, with a new and Spirit-filled heart of flesh.

If you are reading this and you find your heart hardened toward the use of the Law in evangelism, it just may be that your heart is still made of stone. It may be that you have yet to receive a heart of flesh promised to those redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb. If this is the case, please repent. Repent and truly receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

To those who hold to one or more of the objections addressed in this series, please set these objections aside and join those engaged in biblical evangelism in the most loving work any Christian can do. Bring the Law to the proud and Grace to the humble, with love in your heart, love in your eyes, and love in your voice.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Perspective Regarding Persecution



Persecute - to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; specifically : to cause to suffer because of belief.

The above video is comprised of clips from a much longer open-air. The location: the southwest corner of Meridian Street and Washington Street, in downtown Indianapolis, IN. The date: Saturday, February 4, 2012. The occasion: the Super Bowl Outreach, for Super Bowl XLVI.

I was blessed to participate in this year's Super Bowl Outreach, organized by Sports Fan Outreach International, which is very well-led by Bill Adams. Eddie Roman and Brad Snow, from Living Waters, joined me on the trip. I was further blessed to be given the opportunity to speak to the 110 evangelists who had gathered for the outreach.

Eddie, Brad, and I spent a total of twenty-two hours on the streets of downtown Indianapolis distributing tracts, engaging people in conversation, and heralding the gospel in the open-air with some of the most faithful evangelists in North America.

Saturday night was wild. Drunkenness and other forms of depravity were rampant in the massive crowd. And the later it got in the evening, the more depraved the behavior of the people became. Some of what we saw and heard would be inappropriate to post, here. And the idolatry. The worship of man and matter was palpable among the fanatic throng. The intensity of the situation in which we found ourselves preaching is evidenced in the video by my brothers standing in front of me to provide a human shield from the crowd.

At one point in the video, you will see me turn to look behind me, call out to a person, and cite Matthew 10:28. I had just been hit in the back of the head with a small rock or dirt clod. Shortly thereafter, I am stuck in the face with a large, wrapped burrito.

I was dazed for a moment (it's not every day one gets hit in the face with a burrito while preaching). Once I regained my balance and realized I wasn't injured, I continued preaching. My first thoughts when I finished preaching were of the persecuted church around the world and, sadly, the lethargy and apathy of far-too-many segments of the American church.

While I was harassed and physically assaulted for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, I struggle to call what I experienced that night "persecution"--especially when I am aware of brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who have and will suffer so much more than I did on a cold, rainy night in Indianapolis.

Some will make much of the above video, while others will mock. I will watch the video and remember Christians who have been truly persecuted for their faith--martyrs like Pastor Manuel in Colombia, who was murdered by FARC guerrillas. I will watch it and remember martyrs like Graham Staines and his two young sons who were burned alive in their car as they slept, by a Hindu mob. And I will remember the untold number of former Muslims around the world--people like Ugandan Hassan Muwanguzi--who face real persecution every day of their lives for daring to convert from the false religion of Islam to genuine faith in Jesus Christ.

My hope is that Christians will watch the video and not be entertained. I hope Christians will watch the video and not think of me. I hope Christians will watch the video and think of their brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who are suffering and dying for refusing to deny Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And I hope Christians will watch the video and ask themselves: "What am I doing to further the gospel of Jesus Christ? Am I really willing to suffer for His name? Would I lay down my comfort, my reputation, even my life for the cause of Christ?"

What happened to me the other night does not make me worthy to be counted among the likes of the people mentioned above. But it did give me more perspective regarding persecution. And for that I am thankful to my Lord. SDG!

Review of the Waterproof Bible


The following review is the opinion of Tony Miano and does not necessarily reflect the views of Living Waters. Tony's review should not be seen as an endorsement of this product, by Living Waters.

For Father's Day 2011, I received the gift from my wife of an ESV Waterproof Bible (produced by Bardin Marsee Publishing).

Since June of 2011, I've used my Waterproof Bible as my primary Bible for open-air preaching. I have hesitated to write a review of this Bible because the weather in Southern California is beautiful just about year-round. There hasn't been enough adverse weather conditions by which to give the Bible a thorough test.

That is...until last weekend.

In the above picture, I am standing atop a box and open-air preaching on the southwest corner of Meridian Street and E. Washington Street, in downtown Indianapolis, IN. In my hand is my Waterproof Bible. The occasion was the Super Bowl Outreach, for Super Bowl XLVI.

While we had beautiful weather on Friday and Sunday, Saturday was another story. The temperature dropped to about 42 degrees, with the wind chill bringing the temperature below 40. While this may be a balmy winter day for most who live in the Midwest, for a Californian it was just plain cold. Add to the cold a steady misting rain and, well, you get the picture.

Before I share how my Waterproof Bible held up in these cold and rainy conditions, let me give you some specs for the Bible.

Specs

754 pages
5 7/8" x 8 3/4"
8 pt font
Material: 100% Waterproof Synthetic Paper and Binding
Weight: 2 lb. 9 oz. (with waterproof cover)

Durability

The synthetic paper used in the Waterproof Bible makes the pages tear-resistant. Bibles take a pounding when used for street evangelism and open-air preaching. My Waterproof Bible has shown very little wear after months of frequent outdoor use.

The only damage thus far to my Waterproof Bible is a pulled and slightly separated seam stitch between pages 710 and 711. This likely occurred when I dropped the Bible from about 5', with it landing open-faced, on a wet concrete sidewalk.

In addition to being waterproof and tear-resistant, the pages of the Waterproof Bible are designed to hold ink from note taking, without smudging or smearing when the pages get wet.

I use fine-tip Sharpie pens (multiple colors) in my Waterproof Bible. The ink, when dry, will smudge if you wipe it with considerable pressure with your fingers (you have to work at it). And if you have suntan lotion or other similar substance on your hands, you can damage the pages. But regular, normal handling of the Bible does not seem to cause any smudging or smearing of either the Bible text or the additional hand-written notes.

As previously mentioned, Saturday was a cold day with a steady, light rain. The Bible was exposed to the elements for most of the nine hours I was on the streets, and it was used by a few different people on my team.

After letting my Waterproof Bible dry for about six hours, I went through the Bible to check on the condition of my hand-written notes. With the exception of a little smudging on the very last blank page of the Bible (and this just on a couple of lines of text), my hand-written notes were in tact.

Six hours was not quite enough time for my Waterproof Bible to completely dry. However, as I found wet pages within the Bible, all I had to do was gently dry them off with a cloth. In doing so, I was able to wipe the cloth over some of my hand-written notes without smearing or smudging the notes.

All-in-all, I would say the Waterproof Bible has lived up to my expectations regarding durability.

Convenience and Portability

At 2 lbs. 9 oz. (with waterproof cover), the Waterproof Bible is a bit heavy for street evangelism and open-air preaching. Obviously, the type of material used to make the pages is what adds to the Bible's weight. While less than three pounds may not seem like a lot of weight, your arms may get tired after holding it for 30-45 minutes during an open-air; or carrying it in a backpack for several hours on the streets.

However, what one loses in portability one quickly makes up in the Waterproof Bible's other positive features.

The pages of the Waterproof Bible are very bright, which makes the Bible easy to read in low-light conditions. Even though the pages are shiny due to the material of which they are made, the pages do not produce any unreasonable glare in direct sunlight.

The 8-point font size is large enough to allow for the reading of lengthy passages of Scripture in virtually any lighting situation.

Price/Value

Currently, the Waterproof Bible is priced at $39.95; and the Waterproof Bible Jacket is currently priced at $19.95. At approximately $60.00 for the Bible and cover, it may be a bit outside the budget of some. But I believe the Waterproof Bible and cover is a good value, especially for those who are on the streets sharing and preaching the gospel.

Conclusion

The Waterproof Bible lives up to its name and the assertions of the manufacturer/publisher. It is durable enough to withstand the rigors of street ministry. It is reasonably priced for what the buyer receives. I'm not only well-pleased with my Waterproof Bible, but I recommend it to any brother or sister in Christ who hits the streets to herald the gospel, regardless of the weather.

Six Objections to and Misconceptions about 'The Way of the Master' (Part 5)

Objection #5 - Living Waters (WOTM) is anti (against) Pentecostal churches

While the specific objection regarding Pentecostal churches is not all that common, it does speak to a more common category of objections.

First, Living Waters (WOTM) is not anti-Pentecostal. As I thought about this objection, two people immediately came to mind who are part of the Living Waters family/staff. They attend a Pentecostal church. And they are dearly loved by all in the ministry.

I don't think more needs to be said regarding the Pentecostal issue; but I would like to take some time to address the category of objection in which the Pentecostal issue falls. For the purpose of this article, I will call the category "Doctrinal Determinism."

"Doctrinal Determinism" is the practice of determining particular doctrinal positions of Living Waters (or other ministries and churches), without Living Waters ever taking an official position on those particular issues. There are certain theological issues about which Living Waters will likely never take an official, public position. And any official doctrinal positions taken by the ministry are determined by leaders in the ministry who are above my pay grade.

Silence by Living Waters regarding various theological or philosophical issues should not be seen as a position in favor or against those various theological or philosophical issues. And all members of the Living Waters staff are free to believe, study, worship, and fellowship according to their personal convictions and preferences, without compromising their deeply held spiritual beliefs, so long as those beliefs, convictions, and preferences are consistent with the ministry's Statement of Faith.

Aside from the easy-to-answer Pentecostal question, I will not discuss the doctrinal positions of Living Waters, in this post. If you want to know what Living Waters believes, as a ministry, please read the ministry's Statement of Faith.

There is yet more to gain by addressing the "anti-Pentecostal" objection; and that's helping Christians make the distinction between "non" and "anti" positions. "Non" means "not;" and "anti" means "against." It is possible for a Christian not to hold a particular doctrinal, philosophical, or methodological position without necessarily being against that doctrinal, philosophical, or methodological position.

Here are a few examples I hope are helpful.

A Christian can be non-Charismatic without being anti-Charismatic. Personally, I do not hold to a Charismatic position regarding the more extraordinary spiritual gifts (tongues, healing, prophecy, etc). But I have nothing against my brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with my theological position on the subject. I can (and do) enjoy wonderful fellowship and ministry with brothers and sisters in Christ who would label themselves as "Charismatic."

A Christian can be a non-Calvinist without being anti-Calvinist in their doctrinal positions; just as a Christian can be a non-Arminian without being anti-Arminian.

A Christian can be a member of a non-denominational church without being anti-denomination.

Unfortunately, there will likely always be those within the Body of Christ who will try to determine what another Christian, or church, or ministry believes based on what they don't talk about instead of making the determination based on what they have actually said on any given issue.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Six Common Objections To and Misconceptions About The Way of the Master' and Biblical Evangelism (Part 4)

Objection #4 - Living Waters (WOTM) says that this is THE ONLY way to preach the gospel.

To my knowledge, neither Ray Comfort nor anyone on staff at Living Waters has ever made such a ridiculous statement.  Even so, it's amazing how often this objection is levied against the ministry.

More amazing still is how often I have personally heard this objection from people who don't share the gospel or from people who follow a model of "friendship evangelism," which all-too-often is neither friendship nor evangelism.

The reason for the above statement regarding "friendship evangelism" is this. As it is most often practiced, "friendship evangelism" rarely results in the unsaved friend hearing the gospel. The Christian invests a great deal of time and energy developing a relationship with a lost person; but if/when the opportunity to share the gospel presents itself, the Christian often balks. Sadly, the reason is often that the Christian doesn't want to do or say anything that would jeopardize the friendship he or she worked so hard to cultivate. So, in the end, maintaining the friendship with the unsaved person becomes more important than the state of the soul of the unsaved friend.

I, for one, don't believe that standing on a box and loudly heralding the gospel is the only way to evangelize the lost. I also don't believe that every witnessing encounter must include the "Good Person Test." Nor do I believe every Christian must distribute gospel tracts. I believe the Law and the Gospel must be faithfully and biblically proclaimed no matter what particular methodology the Christian chooses to employ.

I think those who levy Objection #4 do so, in part, because they confuse methodology with theology. They confuse practice with doctrine. While theology does and should influence our methodology, and while doctrine most certainly should influence our practices, there are distinctions to be made between theology and doctrine, and methodology and practice.

Saying evangelism should be done "the way of the Master"--the way the Master did it--is to say that evangelism should always be done biblically--not "Ray's way" or "Tony's way;" but the way see evangelism happen throughout the Scriptures. While methods can vary, Christians should not stray from biblical evangelism principles in order to accommodate unbiblical evangelistic methodology.

At Living Waters (WOTM), while we do employ methods to communicate truth, the emphasis of the ministry's teaching is biblical principles not human methods.

The gospel is a communicated message (Romans 10:14-17), in either verbal or written form. Evangelism must include the verbal or written proclamation of the gospel or it is not evangelism. Without the proclamation of the gospel, the activity may be an act of service, but it is not evangelism.

Should Christians feed the hungry, clothe the poor, shelter the cold, and treat the sick? Of course. These activities are, by definition, "loving thy neighbor." But if you put food in a person's stomach, clothes on their back, a roof over their head, and medication in their body; but you do so without also proclaiming the gospel to that person; then, if they die after the Christian has served them, the Christian is merely making the unsaved person's journey to Hell more comfortable.

Should the Christian serve and help people? Yes. And that service and help should always be a means by which opportunity is created for the proclamation of the gospel.

So, in conclusion, there is only one way to proclaim the gospel. Biblically. My Christian brethren, if you are doing that, if you are proclaiming the Law and the Gospel biblically, I have very little concern for your preferred methodology--so long as that methodology enhances and does not detract from the proclamation of the Law and the Gospel.

The Laws of Logic and the Glory of God




Laws of Logic

1. Identity – Something is what it is.
2. Non-Contradiction – Something cannot be itself and not be itself at the same time, in the same way, and in the same sense.
3. Excluded Middle – A statement is either true or false.

Characteristics

1. Immaterial – You can’t go to the fridge and pull out a pound of logic.
a. God is spirit – “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

2. Absolute – Not limited by restriction or conditions; independent; perfect in quality of nature; complete
a. God is perfect – “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4). And “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him” (2 Samuel 22:31).

3. Universal – Related to, extended to, or affecting everyone, everywhere.
a. God is omnipresent - Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:7-10).

4. Eternal – Being without beginning or end; existing outside of time.
a. God is eternal – “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).

5. Unchanging – Remain the same; constant.
a. God is immutable – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).

6. Impartial – Unbiased or unprejudiced.
a. God is impartial – “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe” (Deuteronomy 10:17).

7. Transcendent – preeminent; surpassing in degree or excellence; supreme.
a. God is sovereign - I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:13-16).

Six Objections to and Misconceptions about 'The Way of the Master' (Part 3)

Objection #3 - It makes YOU look like a fanatic.

So.

If you are not engaging in biblical evangelism because you are concerned about how you look in the eyes of people, saved or unsaved, please repent of your self-love.

This is one of those common objections that doesn't merit a significant amount of time.