A Look in the Mirror- Proverbs 9:21

I try to be very cautious when I give my testimony, and to not be too specific because I don’t want people to get the wrong impression.  I share just enough for them to know that I overcame through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because I want Christ to be the focus and not my sin.  You see part of my issue is that I was an alcoholic.  I don’t share how bad of an alcoholic most times because I have noticed that alcoholics tend to brag.  Once pride over sin enters into the conversation it is a lost cause, and the sin becomes the conversation.  It becomes who was the bigger sinner.

Instead of discussing the deliverance of the cross the conversation deteriorates into who drank the most, or who did the most embarrassing things, and all focus on Christ is lost.  Truth be told all sin comes from our selfishness and is fed by pride.  Even shameful sins are fed by our lashing out to feel better about ourselves, by punishing those around us.  This gives us the center of attention, even if it is in a bad way.  Unfortunately we become to think of ourselves as unique in our little world. We believe that we are smarter than everyone else around us.  We believe that we don’t need others, they don’t know us, and that they cannot identify with us.  This twisted image makes us dependent on the sin.

I can remember, when I was drinking, that at times I was very proud of how much I could drink.  Even how cruel I could be to others.  I remember sometimes purposely starting fights with my wife, so that I could have an excuse to storm out and go drinking.  Afterward I would feel ashamed and then would drink more to drown out the terrible feelings.  I couldn’t look at my wife or my children without severe regret for the things I had done.  When I looked in the mirror, it was only to ask myself what had happened to the young man I use to be.  Where were all those great things I was going to do with my life?  Where was the man that swore to protect the ones he loved?  I began to realize that the same pride I had in those things had become twisted into my self-image from my hard headedness of holding on to my sin.

Proverbs 9:21 says, “He , that being often reproved hardenteh his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” You see I did not listen to the warnings that others were giving me in the way of life I was living.  I chose to hold onto my drinking, and the underlying sin that fed it.  I choose to be in rebellion.  My pride had me held up for ransom. The Lord has given us plenty of warning over and over again of what this self-pride will do to us.  It says, “Therefore his calamity will come suddenly; Instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing.” (Proverbs 6:15).

There comes a point when everyone around us gives up and leaves us to our own destruction.  God warns us that there is a penalty to pay for willful ignorance and pride. He calls it being stiff necked. Being stiff necked and prideful, resisting the truth, and choosing sin over repentance can destroy lives.  Only in looking back at a wasted life of destroyed relationships, and tortured looks from loved ones can one see this truth.  But there is an alternative.  Take a look at the book of Ecclesiastes.

“A stubborn heart shall fare evil at the last; and he that loveth danger shall perish therein.  An obstinate heart shall be laden with sorrows; and the wicked man shall heap sin upon sin.  In the punishment of the proud there is not remedy; for the plant of wickedness hath taken root in him.  The heart of the prudent will understand a parable; and an attentive ear is the desire of a wise man.  Water will quench a flaming fire; and alms maketh an atonement for sins.  And he that requitech good turns is mindful of that which may come hereafter; and when he falleth, he shall find a stay.” (Ecclesiastes 3:27-31).

This is a comparison and contrast that shows there is an alternative.  You can choose to live in your sin and pay the penalty of destruction, sorrow, and death. From this there is no remedy.  You cannot get out of it by yourself.  You have to accept the truth of your situation.  A truly wise man will understand that he cannot continue in this path of self-destruction.  Shame only builds more shame.  Believe me please, I know.  There is another way.

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life:  no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6).  What is so important about this?  Take another look at Ecclesiastes above.  It says that a prudent man knows that water puts our fire.  Alms and atonement must be made for the sin. You see sin ultimately brings death.  “Then when lust has conceived, it bringeth for sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth for death.” (James 1:15). Death will come to those who continue in their sin.  Destruction that cannot be remedied will occur as a result of our rejection of this truth.  You see you do not have to believe that fire will burn you if you touch it, but it will.  Just the same sin will kill you.  But we do have hope in Jesus Christ.

 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6.23).  Jesus offers an alternative.  In his death he paid the price for our sin.  He died to pay the price of death for you.  But not only that, Jesus rose again so that we might live eternally with the Father.  This is a free gift, a way out of your old life.  A way of atonement that has been made on your behalf, by God Himself, in Jesus Christ. “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and on the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17).

You see there is a way of hope.  There is a new life.  There is a way out of the shame and despair.  That way is in Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  This is more than just a second chance.  This is a new birth.  Salvation is more than just being saved from hell, or self-destruction.  It is a whole new life.  It is becoming the child of God you were intended to be from before you were born.  The Father has always wanted to hold you in his arms, he wanted you so much that he sent his son Jesus to become a man and pay the price of death for you.

All you have to do is believe that he did, and then confess it.  “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Romans 10:9-11).  The hardest part is just putting away that foolish pride.  Because with pride in the way you are blinded to seeing the truth.  Look in the mirror, what happened to you?  Tell the truth.

 

Be an Encouragement

Philippians 4:8

I received a push on my computer from a newspaper that I subscribe to and the article it highlighted was one that depicted what they referred to as the top racist moments of 2017.  This article had pictures with little one liners that described with no real details how the picture represented something that someone had done that showed racism.  I was quite taken back.  I remember when was young the end of the year was used to reflect on how adversity had been overcome, and how despite all the odds we had persevered through the hard times, made difficult decisions and shouldered the burdens of those events together.  We looked back and chose to revel in the good of others and the accomplishments that were made by family, friends, and our communities.

Lately it seems a bad virus has spread across our continent.  This sickness has darkened our hearts and made us to hurt and use one another spitefully.  It is strange how in such a short time we went from being on the top of the world, the only super power to survive the cold war, united in a common cause to the mess we see now days.  We have allowed our joy to be taken from us and made to feel vulnerable.  We have allowed the “fear” of racism, sexists, and other unseemly isms to infiltrate our peace for fear of being ostracized from society. Political Correctness and the immoral minority have paralyzed us into inadequacy of action. We have compromised our holiness before God and man.

Remember the words of Paul and Timothy that were recorded in their letter to the Philippians where they wrote, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8).  It is believed that Paul wrote this epistle near the end of his Roman imprisonment around 61-62 AD.  Paul sought to encourage this church who was in a spiritual battle.  He poured out his life as an offering to Christ in many dangerous situations, which included beatings, stoning’s, shipwrecks, and imprisonments and yet he still had joy.  Paul wanted the church at Philippi to know that living a Christ centered life was the key to joy.

So looking here we see that perspective affects our joy.  Paul said that we need to look at things in the proper perspective.  We should think, or deliberately consider, or meditate on these things that Paul mentions.  We should reflect on things that are true.  In other words we should concentrate of things that are correct, or accurate and not give into speculations or hearsay.  Think on eternal truths from the scriptures and see them at work in nature.  We should be honest in all our dealings with God and with man.  Promote the general good, and the good news of the gospel.  We should protect our minds and honor those who are chaste.  We should dress ourselves in integrity.

Good news should be shared and enjoyed with one another.  Take joy in the accomplishments of others and in the blessings that the Lord has given others.  We should share in the blessings the Lord has given us with all love and compassion towards our fellow Christians and the world.  We should publically acknowledge good deeds and be useful in our community to build up our community instead of tearing it down.

Paul knew that true joy comes only through humility and faith that is acted out in the lives of those around us.  Pray for one another, give to one another, and share hope in Christ to one another.  Allow the joy you find in Christ Jesus to share peace instead of quarrels and divisions.  If you pray for peace and restoration then get out be a peace maker, be a restorer in your community.  Let the light of Christ show in your daily walk.  Weep with those who need to weep, then be an encouragement.

Get Out of the Christmas Blues

Luke 2:11 “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

This is part of the message that the angels of the Lord said to the shepherds who were nearby in the fields of Bethlehem.  The whole message is one of joy and celebration.  The long awaited Messiah had finally come.   This birth would change the course of human history.  While this miraculous event was taking place there were shepherds in the fields doing what shepherds do.  There were inn keepers doing what they do.  Some were undoubtable asleep, some might have been eating, some were having fun doing other things, or just unwinding from a long day. Life was happening as normal.

I remember when my dad passed away.  It was a day just like any other.  I had intended to go by and see him that day.  I was in route to see him, when something else came up, so I put it off, intending to see him when I was done. Later when I was starting to head to his house, I received a call from my sister.  My dad had passed away.  I went to the hospital to see him, and as I left I remember looking around and wondering how everyone could just keep going about their business, didn’t they know that he was gone?  That 1st Christmas without him was very difficult.  I had a custom of calling him before the sun came up and singing, “We wish you a Merry Christmas” to him.  Instead I laid in my bed and whispered it softly to him.  I knew that he was in heaven, and that he could hear me, but I missed hearing his voice.

I know that there are some of our ministry family that have lost loved ones this year too.  Some have lost your vehicles and homes and even jobs and had to relocate.  Some are drowning with financial burdens that won’t seem to stop.  Some are dealing with the loss of a relationship.  Some a death of a very close friend or a wife, or a mother, or a dad, or a husband. I know that even though you know they are in heaven, you still have a heart that longs to see them.  I just wanted to take some time to encourage you that you will see them.  You will see them because of the birth of Jesus set forward the plan of salvation that was made before the very foundations of the world were created.  I also want you to know that there are things around you that you can do to ease your pain.

I want you to know this, because I know that grief can be a terrible thing if you let it take over your life.  I want to encourage you to get out and take advantage of this season to have some joy.  Share your love of Christ in your happiness and your sorrow.  Find someone and be intentionally kind.  Invite a neighbor over to watch the Nativity Story or some other Christ centered movie.  Get with your church and find a needy family, and make them Christmas presents.  Call up an old friend and just pray for them.  Everyone can always use a little prayer.  Then take the time to follow up with them on the results of the prayer.  Always pray with expectancy.

Those of you who are social media savvy can take the time to write out what Christmas means to you and how Christ has changed your life and post it.  It doesn’t have to be long and drawn out, but just enough to remind those who read it about the wonderful gift that God gave us in Jesus.  Maybe you can go to a nursing home and read the Christmas story to some elderly.  Maybe get to a homeless shelter and help serve there for a night or two.  Who knows you might find something that you have been missing.

I guess what I am trying to share with you is that we all can lose sight of how amazing this birth is.  That God became man, and lived here among us.  He loved, he laughed, he worked. He ate when he was hungry and drank when he was thirsty.  He even cried for his friends, and for the lost he never quit fighting.  In the end he gave himself, his very life, as a ransom for us all.  Surely there is a reason to enjoy Christmas!  Let your joy come out and share your testimony!

Leave the Pig Pen Behind

In the gospel of Luke we find a story about a son who had taken his inheritance from the family and went away to a far land.  While there he wasted the inheritance on unwise and questionable living.  Much like many of us do when we first leave home.  When he had run out of money, there was a famine in the land and he was caught with no money, no job, and no way to come home.  Stranded in the this foreign land he took a job as a servant to an unrighteous man who took advantage of him.  After some time of this the young man, out of desperation decided to swallow his pride and return home.

The time away had beaten the young man in more than one way.  His heart was broken and his life was in shambles.  He had no hope, he only wanted to get home and beg his father for mercy and help.  I can think of times in my life when I had ruined all the opportunities that youth had given me, and squandered my money and eventually was left with nothing but burned bridges.  Shamefully I turned to family for help.  Not knowing if they would help, but desperately needing it.

Some of you are very familiar with this story, but I want to concentrate on this one aspect.  When the father saw the young man in the distance, he ran to him.  Then he called his servants and told them to put a robe on him, and a ring on his finger.  This is what I want us to see.  The son had travelled a far way.  His previous job had him living with pigs, and eating the leftovers of what the pigs did not eat.  He was malnourished, unclean, smelling.  Yet his father loved him anyway.  His father did not say, “Oh my, go get a bath, and put on some perfume before you hug me!”  No his father instead ran to him, and kissed him passionately over and over again.

This is the love that God has for us.  He loved us before we were cleansed.  We did not have to clean ourselves up and be presentable before he embraced us.  A lot of Christians will tell you that God loves me just the way I am, and that is true.  He does love us, just the way we are.  But if we look closer at this parable, we see that his father loved his son so much that he did not let him remain unclean.  This is the way our heavenly Father also loves us.  He loves us so much that he cannot leave us in the mire and stench that Jesus saved us from.  He renews our minds and transforms us into his image.

Psalm 3:3 says, “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap”.  In other places in scripture it describes how the Lord brought the writer out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set his feet upon a rock making his footsteps firm (Psalm 40:2).  The Lord wants better for us than to just be saved from hell.  He wants us to be what we were meant to be in Him.

Romans 8:37 explains how that we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. We are more than victorious, more than vanquishers, more than subjugators. Christians need to study scripture and awaken to the truths that God has given us.  We do not need to be sheepish and tied to the things that kept us bound before.  When the son in this story had returned home to his father’s embrace, he had also left the pig pen behind.  He was not living in that filth anymore.  -Amen

Matthew 6: 26-34 Am I the Lord of Your Life?

Matthew 6:26-34

“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  So why do you worry about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore do not worry, saying, What shall we eat? Or What shall we drink? Or What shall we wear?  For after these things the Gentiles seek.  For you heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.   Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

I was headed home from church Wednesday evening at about 9 pm.  As I turned down the dimly lit road that leads to my house something caught my eye.  I slowed down to a halt and flicked up my high beams.  There was a field rabbit in the middle of the road.  His eyes stood there a moment and then he turned and desperately hopped away, trying to escape the beams of light that gave away his position.  I slowly proceeded behind him until he jumped off the road.  I remember just seeing him there was a pleasant surprise and I began to think of how God must be trying to tell me something.  Then suddenly something else caught my attention.

There just ahead at the edge of my headlights we two glowing objects.  Once again I slowed down and the familiar form of a young opossum came into view.  I stopped the car and we watched one another for a few moments, then he feeling it was safe, crossed the road in front of me and disappeared into the brush.  Then like a small voice I heard Matthew 6:26 in my mind, “Look at the birds of the air,” or the rabbits in the fields and the possums in the bushes. Do you see how I have cared for them? Can you see how I am caring for you?

I know you are wondering, wow where did he get this from seeing two different kinds of potential roadkill on a dark road?  But you see just a few weeks ago I was trying to wade out of that area in flood waters that were up to my chest.  I had my wife, son, two dogs, and a cat that I had to get safely out of our flooded home and to a place where they could be safe and get dry, and have some food, and a place to sleep.  I did not know what laid ahead for the future.  I did not know what tomorrow was going to bring.  The only thing I knew then and it is what I still know is Matthew 6:26-34.

It is amazing to me that the Lord knew me before I was even born, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1.5).  In Palm 139 David even says that the Lord not only knows us but has an intimate knowledge of us. “You have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out y path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.”  You see the Lord not only know us before we were born, but he also stays in complete knowledge of what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.  He supports us, and protects us in all circumstances.  He provides for us under all conditions.  He is not surprised by what we do, or where we are, or what happens in our lives.  Knowing all of this about us and our life, he still chose to save us.

For those of us who have already believed on his son, Jesus Christ, he has already blessed us with all spiritual blessings.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Ephesians 1:3-4)  You see this is our joy!  We praise God for what he has already done!  We already have ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS!  This is not of our own doing but just the complete love of God towards us.

This is how much more important that we are then the birds of the air!  We worry so much about things that we don’t need to.  We allow our joy to be stifled by the cares and concerns of this world.  What is going to happen to my house?  How am I going to get to work?  What will I wear?  What am I going to eat?  All the while the Lord is saying, “Be still, let me be God”. ” Am I the Lord?” “Am I the Lord of YOUR life?  If you have trusted me for salvation, Can’t you trust me with everything else?”

This is what I saw when I saw the rabbit and then the opossum.  I saw the Lord showing me that he took care of those two critters that were somewhere fighting to survive in the same waters that my family and I was trying to survive in.  They were alright.  They were being provided for.  So were we, thanks to the Lord of our life and the God of the universe who cares enough to know what my need is and provide for it.  That makes me feel confident it Him.

Behold, God is my helper… (Psalm 54.4)

In the 4th verse of Psalm 54 it reads, “Behold, God is mine helper:  the Lord is with them that uphold my soul.”  The simplicity of this verse overwhelms my heart.  This Psalm was penned out concerning the occasion when the men of Judah betrayed David to Saul.  They did this twice, the first is recorded in 1 Samuel 23.19 and the second in 1 Samuel 26.1.  While this is often used as an archetype to Judas betraying Jesus, today I want to discuss the portion that just deals with God being our helper.

Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4 storm that entered the Texas coasts centered on Rockport in August 25, 2017.  It has so far gone down in history as one the 2nd largest natural disaster in U.S. history.  It has so far been estimated that the cost in damages in Texas and Louisiana alone is 180 billion. Hurricane Harvey is only topped by Hurricane Katrina from 2005 that caused an estimated 108-250 billion dollars in damage in Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. It affected millions of people from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

On September 14, 2017 the Washington Post reported that Texas Officials put the Death Toll for Hurricane Harvey at 82.  Hurricane Harvey made landfall three separate times across a three day period and caused over two feet of rain to fall in some areas in less than a 24 hour period.  This broke National Record Rainfall levels for a Single Tropical Storm, by dropping an unprecedented 51.88 inches in Cedar Bayou, located in the Greater Houston Area. The total effect of Harvey on people’s lives will be felt for decades.

I, my neighbors, and my family and friends know the effect of this storm 1st hand.  At around 1 am we awoke with water coming into the house.  Within minutes my wife, oldest son, 2 dogs, a cat, and myself were all piled in my bed with water up to the windows.  I remember later that morning posting on Facebook the lyric from a song along with a picture taken of the water from on top of my bed, “Even if you don’t… my hope is you alone… give me strength to say… it is well with my soul!”  I will spare you the tale of how we made it out to dry land, with the exception of saying that I know of one of my neighbors who did not make it out alive, and that I was amazed at the provisions that the Lord made for retrieving us to safety.

Since we have begun the slow process of recovery.  I can surely say that God is my helper.  We have had such an outpouring of love and compassion towards us and our neighbors that I have been quite speechless in taking it all in.  Even now as I recount how neighbors reached out to help neighbors in blow up mattresses, canoes, small boats and anything that would float.  Strangers opened their homes, gave up their clothes, and food in support of those who needed it.  Sure I lost everything I had.  We had vehicles that were paid off years ago that were destroyed, my son had to move out, my home I just bought earlier this year is ruined.  But through everything God has been my helper.

He has been faithful.  He has provided us a place to sleep and rest.  He had provided us food.  He has provided us clothing.  He has provided us with transportation.  He has provided us with financial assistance as we have needed it.  The relationship between me, my wife, and our Lord has all been strengthened.  You see I, and my family have willingly submitted everything to God.  There is such a release in knowing that we can trust Him to provide for all out future needs.

We know this because looking back over the past year, I can actually see where He has prepared us for this event.  In teachings received throughout the year from our Pastor, to people that have been put into our lives, to the financial and physical healing He has performed in our family this past year.  Even events where certain people were removed from our lives, that if they were still with us during the storm they might not have survived and thus relieved us from that burden of guilt.

So he has been faithful in our past.  He has been faithful now in the provisions I shared with you already.  So we can have confidence that He will remain to be faithful.  He is our provider.  Not only, that He will make it so that we can also assist others.  We held church services from my home for all our neighbors.  Yes all walls torn out and with free A/C and heating provided by, you guessed it, God himself… LOL.  We look forward to seeing how God is going to move in our community, and how He is going to restore our lives.  I’m not only confident in Him, I am excited! – Amen

What Are We Doing With the Great Commission?

The spreading of the gospel is what created the church (Col. 1.5-6), and the primary message of the church is the gospel (1 Cor. 15.1-3).  By saying that, the spreading of the gospel is the primary message of the church, it is meant that we begin with the process of telling others the truth of Christ and salvation.  Salvation in Christ is not only believing, but accepting.  Accepting the Salvation offered through Jesus Christ means you HAVE BECOME A DISCIPLE.  Disciples MAKE disciples. This is what evangelism is, the start of that process.

Probably the most powerful verse in evangelism is what we call the great commission.  In this Jesus meets with his 12 disciples on a mountain and gives them one last bit of encouragement and a command.

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”  (Matthew 28.19-20).

A successful business has a business plan, and in that plan covers the vision and the goal for the business.  The Great Commission is that for the church.  It gives us our mission: What we are called to do; Our Vision: Where we hope to go; Our Plan: How we will get there: and Our Response:  What we need to do. We are told to “go”.  We should be a reaching church, ever expanding our message.  If you study things in nature, they are always growing, or they are dying.  If a tree stops growing then it rots from the inside-out.  This is the condition we see allot of local churches in today.

Jesus said, “As the Father sent Me, so I send you (John 20.21). This was God’s plan from the very beginning.  From the Old Testament on into the New Testament God demonstrated his plan of repentance and salvation through the word of mouth shared by men to men (mankind to mankind).  This spreading of the Word of God came through prophets, teachers, scribes, kings, Apostles and, finally, disciples.  In Acts 1.8 scripture tells us that we are to be witnesses of Jesus, starting in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  We read in the gospel of Mark that we are to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16.15).

We are not to be idle and wait for people to come to us.  We are to actively take the gospel to all nations, all peoples, all tongues.  This means we should reach out not only to foreign missions, but in our very neighborhoods.  We reach them by preaching, and teaching.  We have to teach them about the love of God and the salvation in Jesus Christ.  We have to proclaim what is acceptable to the Lord God.  We have to teach them how to apply these lessons in their life.  We are to baptize them in accordance to the profession of their belief in Christ.  Immediately we get them in an outward expression of faith, showing others that they are disciples of Christ Jesus.  Evangelism is never an end of means.  Evangelism is a starting point for the new convert.

Evangelism is part of a continuing cycle of growth in the Christian and in the local Church.  Evangelism is a beginning in once sense and the process is a continuing of growth in the other. Like a tree that grows from a single seed, it puts out roots, stretches for the sky, bathes in the Sun and grows up and puts out more seeds that are carried by the winds to new locations. Christians should focus everything in their lives to keeping the gospel message at the center of our mental, spiritual, and emotional life.  This is achieved through deliberate, prayer rooted in Christ, Spirit led, lovingly felt, fervent Personal Evangelism.

One of the deacons shared a story in my Sunday school class on Personal Evangelism.  He told of how a woman had come in to the church just before the service and asked for money for food.  One of the members went out and talked with the couple and believed that their situation was sincere.  The member gave them some money and told them that after they had eaten to come back to the church and join the service.  While that was a good and noble thing to do, it was a wasted opportunity.  What would have been so wrong with two or more members missing service and going with that couple, buying their meal or even some groceries and then sitting with them right then and sharing Christ? That would be keeping the gospel the center in the situation.  If we look at the examples of Jesus and the Apostles in the New Testament we see that they met the immediate need, but they also went further to identify the real spiritual need and offer a solution.  Yes we are to care for the widows, and orphans, and the poor and needy, but we need to care for their spiritual needs as well as the physical, medical, and financial needs.  We do this by sharing everything we know about Christ.

Evangelism is probably the best way to keep the message of the saving grace of Jesus Christ a reality in our lives.  If we are actively evangelizing and concentrating on spreading the gospel it is less likely we will be distracted by the world.  Having gospel conversations with unbelievers builds up our knowledge and confidence in the scriptures.  Being intellectually challenged drives us to seek a deeper understanding of Christ in the scriptures, in history, and in science.  We get to learn more about God’s character, his holiness and judgments, we gain a deeper understanding of how God works in man.  We have to think through how to explain all these concepts to different types of audiences.  This gives us better tools to study and trace God’s truths in scripture and see the evidence in life itself.

Soldiers are taught tasks and skills then immediately are made to go and teach other soldiers these newly learned skills.  This makes them learn the tasks and skill development on a deeper level than they would have ever know in just listening to lectures.  Philemon 1.6 says “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”  Knowing and explaining the gospel to someone who does not understand it or believe in it is different than having an academic understanding.  This process of personal evangelism enlightens the one teaching as well as the one receiving.   Brian Parks in his 9Marks Journal gives 6 Benefits of Evangelism fir Disciples:

  1. Evangelism helps keep the gospel central in our lives and churches
  2. Evangelism deepens our understanding of the most fundamental truths of Scripture
  3. Properly motivated evangelism grows our love for God and neighbor
  4. Evangelism prompts unexpected questions and objections from non-Christians, which can deepen our faith
  5. Evangelism protects us from mistakenly assuming that those around us are saved.
  6. Evangelism increases the likelihood of being persecuted for the gospel which leads to our growth

(“Six Benefits of Evangelism for Discipleship.” 9Marks, www.9marks.org/article/journalsix-benefits-evangelism-discipleship/.)

Evangelism by individual members has a direct effect on church growth.  If we look in the book of Acts there are several examples of how the local churches grew after a short period of active evangelism by its members.  Acts 11:19-26 tells us of how, that after persecution in Jerusalem, some believers went to Antioch and began telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus and how the hand of the Lord was with them and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.  It goes further to say that believers in Christ were first call Christians at Antioch.  The strength of the evangelism effort has a direct relation to the growth of the church.  The local church and its membership should be a vibrant and dynamic reality in the local community.

The early churches demonstrated a recognition of needs in the local area, and even in other distant churches.  Each member of the community was concerned about the welfare of the whole and the individual above themselves.  Resources were shared and this created a social-economic system the benefitted all those around the church area.  The effects of evangelism made it possible for these churches to grow and have a positive effect on their neighbors, their civil governments, and eventually the whole country and even the world.  The church is responsible for the widespread use of the tablet form of writing, what we call a book today.  The church is responsible for the advent of schools, hospitals, and vocational centers, for rehabilitation centers and even the Constitution of the United States, the freedom from slavery instituted in Britain and the U.S. came from church movements.  The “Ivy League” schools were originally schools of Biblical Study.  Personal Evangelism has had a great effect on the world.

Christian organizations supply food and clothing to poor, war torn communities all over the world.  Christian legal teams fight slavery, sexual trafficking, Christian and Jewish persecution, and abortion not only in the United States, but in places like Africa, Iraq, Israel and all across Europe.  Without evangelism efforts these Christian churches would not have the resources to send missionaries to local neighborhoods, much less to the foreign mission field.  God provides for these missionaries from the harvest of the evangelism effort.  The building up of the local churches and the resources that they share are affected by the evangelist efforts put forward in their own communities.  With all the good that we do in our neighborhood and in the world around us we must not forget that these are by-products of the spread of the gospel.  Evangelism is for making changes in people’s lives.

Remember back to Matthew 28:20, Jesus commanded that we are to teach the nations “all that I have commanded”, and to “observe all that I have commanded.”  The command is not just to have them confess Christ, but to teach them to be obedient to what Jesus has commanded.  Remember the Lord prefers obedience over sacrifice.  He must be worshiped in Spirit and in Truth.  Those who obey His commandments demonstrate the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Faith that saves has the sign of obedience.  Scripture tells us that we should not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of the mind.  The renewing of the mind is accomplished by the Spirit of God by the study of scripture and fellowship with Christ.  Is this what we are doing?

“How do we usually read this scripture, which is familiarly called The Great Commission? Ordinarily we read it like this, “Go ye therefore, but if you don’t want to go, you can sing in the choir as a substitute and let someone else go for you, teaching all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Other people read it like this, “Go ye therefore, but if you don’t want to go, you can teach a Sunday School class on Sunday morning as a substitute for going and let someone else go for you teaching all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Or, sometimes folks read it like this, “Go ye therefore, but if you are afraid to go or don’t want to go, you can paint on the church building as a substitute and let someone else go for you teaching all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” There’s just one thing wrong with all these various renditions of the scripture as the church members ordinarily read it; it’s not in the Bible. No matter what you say when you get out your Bible, you m7ill still read Jesus saying to you, “go YE therefore and teach all nations.” It does not say anything about if you do not want to go or are afraid to go. It simply says, “GO!” I’m afraid that we in the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ of America have not been going like Jesus Christ told us to go.” (“God’s Plan for World Evangelism.” Sermon 15a)

The sad thing is that most modern Christians have never won a soul to Christ.  In fact most church going Christians do not even try to share their faith, or even invite friends or family to their church for fear of rejection of ridicule.  The danger in this is that Jesus said that whoever is ashamed of me in from of men, him I will be ashamed of in front of my Father.  Many churches don’t even get out in their local cities and perform a corporate level of evangelism.  There is virtually no effort to train or hold church members accountable to participate in Sunday school recruitment or youth development or recruitment programs.  The lack of identifiable leadership in evangelism is often used as an excuse by the members of the congregation to avoid their obligation to share the gospel. The result is that local churches are closing their doors all over the United States.  Members are disenfranchised and quit.  They lack the vision and without a vision they eventually give up and die. The following statistics were released in 1993 from Michael Parrott of Spokane, WA.

EVANGELISTIC STATISTICS

Ninety-five percent of all Christians have never won a soul to Christ.
Eighty percent of all Christians do not consistently witness for Christ.
Less than two percent are involved in the ministry of evangelism.
Seventy-one percent do not give toward the financing of the great Commission.

One particular denomination did a survey on its leadership ministries. The results are as follows:

  • 63% of the leadership in this denomination, including deacons and elders, have not led one stranger to Jesus in the last two years through the method of “Go Ye” evangelism.
  • 49% of the leadership ministries spend zero time in an average week ministering outside of the church.
  • 89% of the leadership ministries have zero time reserved on their list of weekly priorities for going out to evangelize.
  • 99% of the leadership ministries believe that every Christian, including leadership, has been commanded to preach the gospel to a lost world.
  • 97% believe that if the leadership had a greater conviction and involvement in evangelism, that it would be an example for the church to follow.
  • 96% of the leadership believe their churches would have grown faster if they would have been more involved in evangelism.

Because of this, our results in evangelism have been mediocre, at best.

(“Street Level Evangelism, Where is the Space for the Local Evangelist,” by Michael Parrott, Acts Evangelism, Spokane, WA, 1993, pp. 9-11.)

We should constantly analyze ourselves with regards to the “Great Commission”.  Are we effectively reaching our neighbors? Are we teaching those we reach?  Are we seeing lives changed because of the gospel message we proclaim?  What are we that we should not be doing?  What are we NOT doing that we should be doing to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ? The uppermost desire for every Christian should be to bring someone to Christ.  You can do the personal work that you are called to do as an individual Christian.  You can work and win a soul to Christ.  All it took was one man crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord!”  Jesus started by getting one disciple.  Then one disciple got another. All it takes is one person in your neighborhood to proclaim the gospel of Christ.

 

References

“Southern Baptist Convention.” Southern Baptist Convention The Baptist Faith and Message. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 July 2017.

Foundations: An Overview of Systematic Theolog. Perf. R. C. Sproul. Series 11: Three In Persons. Right Now Media, n.d. Web. 28 July 2017.

Coleman, Robert Emerson, and Billy Graham. The Master Plan of Evangelism. Revell, 2008.

“God’s Plan of Salvation.” Bible.org, bible.org/article/gods-plan-salvation.

  1. C. Ryle, Practical Religion (Darlington: Evangelical, 2001), 73

Lindsey, Art, PhD. “The Priesthood of All Believers.” Institute for Faith, Works and Economics (2013): Print.PDF

The Biblical Evangelist, biblicalevangelist.org/index.php?id. 4 August 2017

Steele, David N., et al. The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented. P & R Publications, 2004.

Zagzebski, Linda. “Foreknowledge and Free Will.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, 13 Apr. 2017, plato.stanford.edu/entries/free-will-foreknowledge/.

“Ezekiel 3:19 Commentary – John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible.” Bible Study Tools,

“Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry.” Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry, II, no. 2, 2014. FALL, doi:The Gospel and Evangelism. www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/ezekiel-3-19.html.

“Six Benefits of Evangelism for Discipleship.” 9Marks, www.9marks.org/article/journalsix-benefits-evangelism-discipleship/.

Unknown. “God’s Plan for World Evangelism.” Sermon 15a, www.white-fields.org/uploads/1/5/7/7/15776806/my_favorite_missionary_sermons_sermon_15a.pdf.

“Street Level Evangelism, Where is the Space for the Local Evangelist,” by Michael Parrott, Acts Evangelism, Spokane, WA, 1993, pp. 9-11.