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Evangelism Error

January 11, 2013
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Brother, I want you to escape hell and be saved. Now I know that you’re a sinner because you have admitted to being a sinner. And I know that you will be judged for your sins because you have admitted to that also. So here you stand guilty before a holy God, but let me tell you what your options are: God sent his son Jesus to die on the cross for your sins, so you either accept his free payment and get saved or you reject his free payment and be forced to pay for your own sins.

Did you notice the error?

The doctrine of the atonement is now and will always be a debated topic. It’s sad, but true. But the logic behind it must not be debated. In addition to that, when believers engage in evangelism, their view of the doctrine of the atonement will ring true loud and clear in the words that are used, and whatever follows. Take my example for instance, to tell someone that Jesus died for their sins is no small matter.

When we evangelize, we’re making absolute, truth-filled statements. We’re not toeing some line between absolutism and relativity, just waiting on the person to whom we’re speaking to make up their mind. We’re boldly declaring good news after laying out the bad news. There was nothing wrong with the bad news portion in the example. Of course, it never hurts when the person agrees with you or states their guilt before you do. To me, that’s like icing on a cake. But we must be clear in our thoughts when presenting the good news.

To tell someone that Jesus died for their sins, and then rose 3 days later, we’re saying what happened on the cross happened only once and won’t need to be repeated nor reversed. Now it’s basically agreed upon within orthodox Christianity that Jesus’ death was once for all, never to be done again. Hebrews helps us there. But the other side of that ditch is also being implicitly declared also: Jesus’ death and rising will never be reversed. Meaning Jesus died for all of your sins, satisfied God’s wrath upon you, then rose victoriously…which means you are now safe. But to tell someone that if they reject the Jesus whose free payment for your sins can’t be repeated nor reversed, that they have to take the burden upon themselves to pay for their sins is utterly bogus, desperately hopeless, and completely unbiblical.

Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in evangelism error. You can decide whether Jesus died for the whole world or not on your own, but you must never tell someone that their sins are paid with some condition attached to it. That’s nowhere in the New Testament. Either Jesus paid for their sins or they will pay for them. There’s no middle ground or halfway aspect of it. It’s logically illogical to engage in this form of double-talk, but it happens all the time as believers want to ‘cover’ all their bases. We’re called to be faithful and logical scripturally in our obedience to the Great Commission. Let’s be about that

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Elements of Election

January 8, 2013
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Election is one of those doctrines that’s loved and hated at the same time. It’s used as a weapon between groups in the same camp. And it’s used as a reflector to simply never discuss it on Sundays. The word itself is either cherished and paraded in single text sermons, or clearly yet confusingly ignored in sermons. However, there is one major aspect of election that I have never been taught, and until recently, never knew existed within the pages of the inspired Word. Let me elucidate a bit more.

This doctrine is almost always inextricably linked to one thing and one thing only; salvation. Whenever the topic of how a person gets saved comes up, the word ‘election’ is either avoided like the plague or championed like the protagonist. It’s safe to say that this touchy subject causes folks to pause. Election and ‘predestination’ are both used in the Bible and used by God. These terms when used together have everything to do with salvation. Let’s be honest about it. Election is also seen in the phrase “elect,” “chosen,” “chose us,” and “choose you” to just offer a few examples. One key passage where both terms are used are found in Ephesians 1:4-5 –  “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”

We must allow the context to determine the meaning. This context is what exposes the many elements of election. God choosing someone does not have to result in salvation.  Election, or its various descriptive ways, is found in Scripture relating to more than just salvation. Let’s look at two other uses.

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.” – 1 Timothy 5:21

Did you know that God has elect angels? Does that mean that there are non-elect angels? If God elected them, do they get saved at some point, while the non-elect don’t?  These may be the sorts of questions that pop into your head after reading that verse, and rightly so. If we remain under the thinking that election is only tied to salvation, then we are left to render that God has saved angels as opposed to obedient angels. That just isn’t the case. In this passage, the “elect angels” are part of the heavenly party that Paul is referring to overseeing all that goes on earth. It has nothing to do with salvation, but mainly their place in the heavenly realm. In addition to God and Jesus, these angels are included to charging young Timothy in his pastoral role. We see here that election is tied to a heavenly court.

One other key usage of election is found in Isaiah 10:5ff

Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger;
the staff in their hands is my fury!
Against a godless nation I send him,
and against the people of my wrath I command him,
to take spoil and seize plunder,
and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
But he does not so intend,
and his heart does not so think;
but it is in his heart to destroy,
and to cut off nations not a few;
for he says:
“Are not my commanders all kings?
Is not Calno like Carchemish?
Is not Hamath like Arpad?
Is not Samaria like Damascus?
10 As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols,
whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria,
11 shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols
as I have done to Samaria and her images?”

12 When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes.

13 For he says:

“By the strength of my hand I have done it,
and by my wisdom, for I have understanding;
I remove the boundaries of peoples,
and plunder their treasures;
like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones.
14 My hand has found like a nest
the wealth of the peoples;
and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken,
so I have gathered all the earth;
and there was none that moved a wing
or opened the mouth or chirped.”

15 Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it,
or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?
As if a rod should wield him who lifts it,
or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!

Here we see God choosing Assyria. Assyria is seen as a tool (rod, staff) in the hands of God. God is using a pagan nation (Assyria) to punish a godless nation (Israel). All of this happens not because Assyria intends it, but because God chooses them to be his correcting instrument. So when the Lord has finished correcting Israel, he will turn and punish Assyria for their pride and pagan ways. Folks, this is election also. God choosing Assyria here, Egypt and Babylon in other places, to carry out divine purposes. Nowhere in this election are these nations saved. In fact, they are used for godly purposes and then crushed.

The Bible uses election to describe the saved, the heavenly court, and tools in the hand of God. These are but a few elements of election, but they ought to enhance our understanding of the doctrine and how the Bible defines it. There are now no more good reasons to abhor election or tout it as the single greatest doctrine alive. May we learn how to read the Bible in context.


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Ethnicity & The Gospel

January 5, 2013
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Here in the United States of America, we have all sorts of people groups (which you may refer to as races) running, walking, and driving in our cities. We see them all the time. We eat in the same restaurants. We sit in the same theaters. We attend the same churches. Sort of. In other countries, the ethnic diversity phenomenon isn’t all that fantastic. Most of these countries are populated with people who look like one another. Neither these countries nor the US are special. Celebrating one’s ethnicity is cool. But after the  celebration is over, the music stops, the chairs are folded, and people go home, what is left standing?

Sin. Separation. Guilt. Judgement. Death. And no one stands after that.

With all the people groups in this world, will there ever be peace among them all? There already is peace and it was secured many, many years ago.

 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

When Jesus died, the harmony among all people groups was sealed as the Gentiles, who were once separated from the commonwealth of Israel and having no hope, were brought near by Christ’s blood and made into one. The dividing wall of hostility has been torn down. In fact, a new man was created with peace that kills the hostility.

So what’s left standing after the world wraps their minds around this truth? Unfortunately, sin and death will remain for some. But there will be thousands upon thousands of saints who fall into all of the people groups in the world that will live and act like the new man created with peace all worshiping the one and true Lord Jesus. Make no mistake about it. There will be seams of peace and reconciliation here on earth, but it will be more glorious and more apparent once Christ returns.

So where does ethnicity stand in relation to the gospel? Looked at rightly, it stands neatly within the gospel where Christ has united all people groups into one new man.