Some people falsely believe that only those who are called by God to be an evangelist have an obligation to evangelize the lost. But Matthew 28:29 gives a clear command to all Christians: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Each of us has an obligation to give the gospel to a lost and dying world; and when we don’t, we’re disobeying God.
Some of the most evangelistic people I know are people who came to a point in their life where they understood their need to just obey God in this area. Like all of us, they had used numerous excuses but realized that their excuses were not legitimate ones to use to disobey God.
Approximately two years ago, God really began to work on my heart regarding my responsibility to witness for Christ. I would give the gospel when the opportunity came to me, but my life was not marked by intentional attempts to make opportunities to witness. As I began to warm to the place of making a decision to be a witness for Christ, I found myself making a mental checklist of all the things I had to prepare or learn to do to be more intentional in witness. It was not long into that checklist that I realized I had completely overlooked the first thing I needed to do in regards to being an intentional witness—to first repent of my lack of obedience to the Great Commission. I have certainly not arrived to a place of perfection regarding witnessing for Christ, but there have been marked demonstrations of improvement over the last two years. The improvement began at that point of repentance.
Here is a thought for you to consider today. Have you considered your lack of fulfilling the command of the Great Commission to be an area of disobedience? If you have been disobeying God, then let’s start with repentance.
It is easy for us to look at our unsaved co-workers, neighbors, and family members and just assume they are all defiant towards the gospel. But not everyone is defiant. Some may carry a surface persona of disinterest and antagonism but are really just quietly searching for answers. One time I heard a preacher describe the Samaritan woman in John 4 as a seductively dressed woman who practiced the behavior of the Proverbs 7 woman, but I’m not convinced that she was truly that way. It is true that she had been married a number of times and was currently living with a man who was not her husband, but those things do not mean she was a harlot living a hard-hearted defiant life toward God. Could it be that she was simply a woman who was extremely hungry for a relationship that fully satisfied and was looking for that relationship in all of the wrong places?
A lot of our evangelism efforts never begin because we have just assumed that a person will not want the gospel if we gave it to them. The Great Commission is not a command to discern who is receptive and who is not. The Great Commission is a command to go into all the world and preach to every creature. Let’s not be guilty of an unhealthy form of evangelistic discrimination.
Keep your eyes out for divine appointments this week. Take advantage of opportunities to give the gospel. Walk into your day armed with a few gospel tracts and a heart that is walking in the Spirit. God may have a “thirsty person” like the woman at the well who simply needs to know the truth that they can have a satisfying relationship with Jesus Christ through faith. You might be able to lead a soul to Christ!
Bad news is what makes good news so good. Presenting the bad news that we are all sinners and deserving of eternal death in hell is hard to communicate. Left to our natural inclinations, we would simply present the love, mercy, and grace of God. But the depth of God’s love, the need for mercy, and the marvel of grace is best understood with the knowledge of our sinful condition.
Gospel presentations like the Roman’s Road, Evangelism Explosion, Netcasters, or the Exchange help us give a balanced presentation of both the bad news and the good news of the gospel. Don’t be afraid of using gospel presentation systems for the sake of insuring that you don’t become guilty of just giving “gospel goulash.” A gospel presentation system helps us insure that we have included all the right elements of the gospel.
Don’t forget, though, that the power of the gospel is in the gospel, not in the presentation system. Don’t become distracted or encumbered with a preference of one particular system that you fail to just give the gospel on a regular basis.
Take what you have been taught and the system you know and give the gospel. Prayerfully present the bad news that makes the good news good and see what God does. I am praying that we see a rich harvest of souls saved at FBC this year.
One of the most damaging notions to a real understanding of God and His relationship with man is the concept that God is simply a force or energy source. Whereas God is indeed a force with which to be reckoned and the greatest power in the universe, He is so much more than that. He is a person! When we remove the concept of His personhood from our thinking, we take away the fact that He has likes and dislikes. We damage our ability to understand the whole concept of morality. We are left to define all the great questions of life by our own experience and intellect.
I want to encourage each of us to be an evangelistic witness for Christ this year. As we witness, seek to emphasize the person of Jesus Christ. People are not saved merely by what they believe but in whom they believe.
Ephesians 1:13 states, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth…” It is our job to share the word of truth in a manner that presents the person of Jesus Christ.
Would you stop and pray that God would give you an opportunity this week to introduce a lost sinner to the person of Jesus Christ?
1. God works through His Word. His Word works slowly, methodically, and often-undetected for long periods of time. However, the result is a work that outlasts us here on earth. Some of the greatest attacks on our schedule will be the attacks made on our time preparing to preach the Word. Satan attacks that which he believes is the most powerful opponent to his agenda. Guard your study time and keep preaching the Word. Your ministry in the Word (even yesterday) has eternal impact!
2. Ministry opportunities will always outnumber the laborers to do the ministry. The overwhelming amount of work to do in the ministry should not surprise us. A part of us wants to just do it all and try to be the super-laborer that makes up for the lack of laborers. God’s solution to lack of laborers has always remained the same: we should train and equip believers (II Timothy 2:2; Ephesians 4) and pray for more laborers (Luke 10:2). Who are you intentionally training and when is the last time you spent a significant amount of time praying for laborers?
3. Clearly stated invitations to accept Christ coupled with a heart-felt plea still work! Many young men in the ministry are passionately defiant to a public invitation for people to accept Christ or make a decision because they have seen distasteful invitations used by preachers. Though many have abused the public invitation, we shouldn’t cast the concept aside completely. Christ regularly invited people to respond to His preaching and to act upon the truths He shared. Rather than laying the practice aside, let’s diligently seek to preach and conduct invitations that are absent of coercion and emotional manipulation. Preach the Word and give people an opportunity to respond. You may have people sitting in front of you who want to respond to God’s work in their heart but just don’t know how. A public invitation is not a method to generate numbers but a method in which we can help people become doers of the Word and not just hearers (James 1).
4. Some of our greatest hurt in ministry will come from those closest to us. People we lead to the Lord, disciple, and invest in can often be the ones who seem to cause our deepest pain. They make decisions and say things that cut to the very quick of our heart and leave us breathless in pain. Our flesh walks away from those situations with a desire to build up walls of protection that prevent us from ever being hurt again. Those walls often take the form of isolation and distance from people. The problem with that response is that the farther we are removed from people, the less ministry we are able to have. I pray regularly that God would protect our hearts from responding the wrong way to the hurts in the ministry. Though every fiber of our being wants to curl up in our offices and lick our wounds, we must continue forward in ministry with a focus on God’s unchanging faithfulness.
5. A ministry-servant’s generosity and sacrifice is not overlooked by God. The most giving people I know are on the front lines of ministry. They regularly see and hear of needs in people’s lives and give countless hours of energy and money to help. Few people will ever know what you have given and done, but God does (Hebrews 6:10). I’m often tempted to think, “Who is thinking of and trying to provide for my needs that are being created by my meeting the needs of others?” I want to know that there is a group of people who know all my needs and stand with outstretched arms ready to meet any need that I face. Though God may use people to meet our needs, He always has been and always will be the benevolent Giver who knows and cares for us. Though you may not see countless people waiting in the wings to meet your needs, there is a God in Heaven who knows all you are doing and will always provide exactly what you need when you need it. Keep giving and sacrificing, and watch God meet your needs.
I want to draw your attention to the word manifold in I Peter 1:6 which says, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.”
The largest stained glass window in the world, according to the Guiness Book of World Records, resides in Resurrection Cemetery, Justice, Illinois. Pickel Studio created this window using over 22,000 square feet of faceted glass. It contains 2,448 panels. Each of the 2,448 panels are individually designed and uniquely different from all the other panels. In describing the panels, we could say that the window has a manifold collection of panels.
God teaches us that the difficulties or trials we face in life are a part of a manifold collection. Each one is unique to the individual and different from the trials that others face. God looks at the unique needs of our life and chooses a trial that is specifically chosen to try our faith.
When trials come, don’t be overwhelmed with the unique trials that God places in your life. He has a special resource to you that is as uniquely designed as your trial is. The Greek word for manifold is found one other time in the book of I Peter. In chapter 4 verse 10, it is used to describe God’s grace. The combination of these two verses using these two words teaches us that God has manifold grace for your manifold trials!
The wonderful message of God’s grace is that in addition to what we pack ourselves to help us think right during trials, God has personally packed a special dose of grace in our bags that can be used when we respond to trials with humility (I Peter 5:6).
I seem to always forget at least one thing when I travel. Sometimes it has been something that is very important like a toothbrush or a belt. Other times it has been an item that just created an inconvenience for me, like headphones or the book I wanted to read. My persistent forgetfulness of items has led me to create a small travel checklist that I keep in my briefcase to help me to remember everything I need and like to have when I travel.
All of us have begun traveling through 2016. We have destinations, expectations, and plans for this trip through the year, and it is essential that we pack correctly for it. I hope that we would all put Biblical thinking about trials, or difficulties, on our packing checklists for this year, because whether or not we’ve planned for them, we will inevitably be met with them this year, in varying degrees. To help us do that, I will be using today’s email and the next two to help us think right when difficulty comes our way.
I Peter 1:6-7 teaches us five things about trials.
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
- There is no trial so large that it prevents the Christian from experiencing joy. This aspect is found in the phrase “ye greatly rejoice.” As a Christian, we have a fountain of joy through the presence of the Holy Spirit that is disconnected from external stimuli. Regardless of what is happening around us and to us, we can have joy that stems from within.
- Trials are momentary. They will only last a season. That season may be a week, a month, or even years; but it is only a season.
- Trials are necessary. The text says, “if need be.” There are some lessons that seem to only be learned through hardship. God is the Master Teacher Who knows not only what we need to learn but how to teach it in a way we will remember.
- Trials are uncomfortable. God knows the “heaviness” of our difficulties. He is not distant from us in that regard. His knowledge of our uncomfortableness enables Him to be truly compassionate, while doing that which is necessary in our lives.
- Trials reveal our faith. They have a way of breaking through all the calloused layers of our heart and revealing the true object and quality of our faith.
During a trial, we often consume ourselves with the questions why is this happening and when will it be over. Instead, we should preoccupy ourselves with the questions what is this difficulty revealing about my faith and does my faith praise and honor God?”
Can you pack these five things about thinking right about tries for our trip through 2016? Can we make sure we are asking the right questions when the difficulty comes? Together, I look forward to seeing the way God reveals and develops our faith here at FBC.
The modern man has a major branding crisis. Most sum him up in one word: lazy. There are different ways to pronounce the word — dependent, wasteful, inept, ungrateful, complacent, unworthy, unimpressive, undisciplined — all with one root: the failure to do. Avoid work, and aim for the bare minimum.
Cycles of laziness eventually turn into cycles of violence. As our muscle for self-denial in work atrophies through inactivity, our ability to deny ourselves in relationships weakens as well. The seed of abusive inclinations is embedded in the selfishness of our laziness. A man who dishonors himself will eventually dishonor others (Proverbs 18:9).
Male laziness, though, is both misunderstood and underestimated by most. Until we understand laziness, we will never be able to work well. We have tried yelling at and mocking men, and that has not worked often or for long. Instead, let’s look at the complexity of laziness to see the deeper business underneath it and how the gospel heals and empowers lazy men.
There are (at least) five vicious cycles that perpetuate male inactivity. Each highlights a different logic behind our tendency toward laziness and complacency.
1. Inefficient Cycle
Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. When guys are inefficient in their planning, working, spending, and sin-fighting, their constant failure can breed the loud message: “You are not competent enough for life.”
At that point, why not give up and check out? Inefficient priorities and methods are working against men. When other men say, “Keep working,” we hear, “Keep trying the same things that haven’t worked,” and “Live a frustrated and unfulfilling life.” So we cease planning, put off work, and remove ourselves from risk. The demands of life increase. And in turn, we retreat even further. At the root of this cycle is insecurity, but the seed is a basic lack of life-skill competence.
The Inefficient Cycle: Incompetence → Effort → Failure → Frustration → Inactivity → Incompetence
2. Overwhelmed Cycle
A man may feel overwhelmed because it all feels like so much. The longer tasks go undone, the more this giant, amorphous mess of uncompleted tasks and unqualified accusation grows. Unfinished work screams, “You’re not a real man!” Undone work excuses unkind self-treatment and unworthy God-worship. It’s easier to avoid a problem than face it head on.
When a man is given too much work without sufficient resources and tools to accomplish the tasks, he’ll shut down. This cycle begins, not so much with inefficiency, but disorganization. The inefficiency cycle lacks tools. The overwhelmed cycle lacks a blueprint. Without the ability to parse and prioritize your workload, almost any task can overwhelm a man.
The Overwhelmed Cycle: Disorganization → Effort → Insufficient Results → Panic → Inactivity → Growing Workload → Disorganization
3. Addiction Cycle
Men are often caught up in an addiction cycle that simultaneously 1) takes up time and energy, and 2) steals the basic ability to perform tasks.
overeating, stealing physical energy
drinking, stealing money and focus
pornographic indulgence, stealing basic spiritual awareness
This cycle often leeches on other cycles — addictions are ways to cope with being stuck. Male avoidance is active, clawing, scraping, and screaming for relief from accusation, for salvation from incompetence, inefficiency, and responsibility. The addiction cycle is the hook that draws a man deep into the dark — men who are weighed down by their shortcomings easily “forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness” (Proverbs 2:13).
The addiction cycle is the latch that often fastens men down in other destructive cycles of laziness. Addiction provides the illusion that divine joy is attainable without God — and with the illusive promise of life-giving rest through addictive indulgence, what need is there for the goodness of work, or (even more absurd) Sabbath rest?
The Addiction Cycle: Fatigue → Indulgence → Satisfaction → Negligence → Growing External Pressures → Craving → Fatigue
4. Unmotivated Cycle
Everyone around us screams, “Work!” So men just do, and quickly realize how purposeless work is as an end in its own. Why work? Peer pressure will last only so long. A failure to give a justified, or purposeful, or existentially compelling reason for work gives men an excuse to just stop working. The question isn’t, “Why are men so lazy?” but, “Why haven’t men found something worth working for?”
Without motivation — without purpose — what reason does a man have to do anything at all? The longer the unmotivated man remains sedentary, the more convinced he is that work simply isn’t worth it.
The Unmotivated Cycle: Lack of Motivation → Inactivity → Work Seems Harder → Work Seems Less Worth the Effort → Lack of Motivation
5. Hobby Cycle
Guys today have a quarter-life crisis and get into biking, shooting, fishing, gaming, or lifting. Guys do stuff now not to provide, but to convince the world (and maybe themselves) that they are just as worthwhile as their hard-working fathers. They are in a cycle of what David Powlison calls innocent pleasures. “The innocent pleasures work in exactly the opposite way as the addictive cycle. It takes less and less to push the lever of joy. Less stimulus is needed for greater joy.”
What do we need for real joy? Well, what is real joy (for the lazy hobby guy)? It is joy that gets us through life. Not the joy of living, but of surviving. What does that surviving-joy look like for the lazy man? Avoiding more and more work — escaping into a hobby. Hobbies can be good gifts from God, but men were made to work. Proficient entertainment cannot replace profession in the fight to live. “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” (Proverbs 13:4).
The Hobby Cycle: Hobby → Excuses Not to Work → More Time for Hobby → More Hobby → Less Interest in Work → More Hobby
A Hammer, Not a Gavel
This may feel like an atomic bomb of judgment to some. Seeing more of my own laziness has certainly felt that way to me. If we’re honest, though, the lazy man hates himself, and so we will work as hard to avoid condemnation as we do to avoid work. The truth about our laziness, however, is not a final gavel of guilt, but a tool — a hammer, even — for escaping the shackles of our life-stealing lethargy.
Before we can escape patterns of laziness, we need to understand patterns of laziness: We’re shackled by cycles of sin — retreat and repeat — and they’re not easy to escape. We need to know what we need — where and how God’s grace comes to the lazy man.
The wise king knows, “The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving” (Proverbs 14:8). What is the first thing a lazy man can do to find his way out of laziness? He can know with personal nuance and practical specificity the position that he is in “to discern his way.”
And the grace of God begins slowly, gradually, and inch by inch. Stay in the fight. There is hope for a way out of your cycle — out of the weight that keeps you in bed, in front of the TV, out of your workplace and church. Your story is far from over.
A young man was sitting on the very last row in his classroom sound asleep while the teacher taught. Unbeknownst to the sleeping student, the principal was in the hallway observing his nodding head and closed eyes. After a few moments, the principal barged into the classroom and asked the teacher, “Do you know Stephen is sleeping in the back of your class?” After the teacher acknowledged that he did, the principal said, “What are you going to do about it?” The teacher responded, “Nothing. He’s a lot better behaved when he’s sleeping.” Perhaps you could have related to Stephen while you were in school. Chances are that when test time comes for Stephen, though, he won’t be behaving: he’ll be grouchy, irritable, stressed, and possibly short-tempered, because he slept through class.
The same is often true for some people: they “misbehave” outside class, because they have a habit of sleeping through class. They didn’t learn the important things that they needed to know in regards to how to behave and respond to the things happening around them.
“No Christian can avoid theology. Every Christian is a theologian. Perhaps not a theologian in the technical or professional sense, but a theologian nonetheless. The issue for Christians is not whether we are going to be theologians but whether we are going to be good theologians or bad ones.”
As I have worked with people over the years, I have seen direct improvements in their feelings of depression, guilt, discouragement, and fear as their knowledge of God (i.e. theology) has grown. These people were not just reading their Bible and attending church. They were reading their Bible and attending church with an alertness to find out more about God! They didn’t just learn about God, they started becoming doers of the Word and applying what they knew about God to their everyday lives.
I’m afraid too many people are sleeping through theology class and wondering why they think, behave, and react the way they do. Too much is at stake. By God’s grace, may we stay alert this week and learn more about our wonderful God.
I’m praying for our church to be students who are awake in theology class!