Flashback Friday: A Right Proclamation Of The Gospel

Originally posted February 17, 2017:

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Yesterday I watched a YouTube video featuring people I personally know from my Charismatic days.  I managed to get past their “God told me” claims by remembering how often I used to phrase my own experiences in those words. In listening to Charismatics, I want to keep in mind that   many of them, though deceived, are genuinely my brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, I walked in those same deceptions for most of my Christian life.

Toward the end of the video, however, they invited unsaved members of their audience to begin their “adventure” with Christ. They assured people that Jesus Christ offers freedom from sin (which He does) and personal fulfillment. According to them, Jesus waited, hoping people would reach out to Him and receive all that He had for them. They read a prayer that made vague reference to being a sinner and committing their lives to Christ. Those who said that prayer were instructed to sign a copy, write the date and keep it in their Bibles in case Satan questioned their salvation.

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More Thoughts About Thinking: It’s Deeper Than Raindrops On Roses And Whiskers On Kittens

Raindrops on a pink rose

Paul gave wonderful guidelines for how the Christians in Philippi should direct their thoughts:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~~Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

As I considered writing this article, I couldn’t help picturing that scene from The Sound of Music when Julie Andrews comforts the children by singing about her favorite things. She teaches them that simply remembering her favorite things keeps her from being overwhelmed by negative circumstances. And, to an extent, her philosophy actually does resemble the principle in Philippians 4:8, doesn’t it?

If we look carefully at Paul’s list of what we need to think about, however, raindrops on roses seem pretty trivial. Should we distill this beautiful verse of Scripture down to a mere slogan for positive thinking that Oprah Winfrey would embrace?

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Not A Tweet Any Professing Christian Should Endorse

I had never heard of Kristen Howerton before. I have no idea whether she professes to be a Christian or not. If she doesn’t, I can shrug off her recent tweet. Non-Christians can be expected to say the sort of things she said.

If she does profess to know Christ, however, her recent tweet troubles me, as it should trouble any Christian. Beth Moore’s evident endorsement of that tweet also troubles me. Read the tweet for yourself:

The problem with a professing Christian as visible as Beth Moore has little to do with the question of systemic racism. I really don’t want to address that question in this blog, primarily because such a discussion would distract from the purpose of this ministry. But I definitely want to explain why the sentiments Howerton expressed (and Beth Moore endorsed) conflict with the Gospel.

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What COVID-19 And George Floyd’s Murder Demand

Praise the Lord for the sensible Christians out there who encourage us to use these troubled times as opportunities to present the Gospel! Too often, we get so embroiled in controversies that we lose sight of our main responsibility to tell the world about Christ. Thankfully, a number of people ranging from John MacArthur to my own pastor have emphasized the vital necessity of evangelism as we face both COVID-19 and the fallout from the murder of George Floyd.

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Why Can’t We Make Them Become Christians?

Al and I became friends about a year before I became a Christian. Early in the friendship he joined the military and was stationed in another state. Right away we began a correspondence that lasted a little over seven years.

Once Jesus had taken over my life, my letters to Al centered mostly around my efforts to evangelize him. Between letters (particularly in the first year), I prayed passionately for his salvation and begged my Christian friends to add their prayers. Each time he visited home, I shared the Gospel with him, imploring him to give his life to Jesus.

After I graduated from college, I came to understand that my obsession with Al was unhealthy. Rightly or wrongly, I wrote a final letter explaining that I had made him into an idol and that I had to let go of him. Since mailing that letter, I’ve only prayed for him a handful of times.

I’ve been thinking about Al lately. To be more specific, I’ve been thinking about my consuming desire to bring him to Jesus.

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Twitter Food Fights And Servants Of Christ

Her grin caused her nose to crinkle as she declared, “I love a good fight!” Probably not the wisest comment to make while discipling eight women in a Tuesday morning Bible Study, but we all laughed along with her. We knew her well enough to know she indeed liked a lively debate and took a little pride in her argumentation skills.

At the time, I felt a bit liberated by her offhand remark. Of course, I would have been careful in making any similar proclamation, and I think I’d feel a twinge of conviction if I ever admitted such a thing.

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Throwback Thursday: If I Must Be Born Again, How Do I Manage It?

Originally posted November 28, 2018.

IMG_0356As a young Christian,  I had a zeal for evangelism. Not a talent for it, mind you, and not the best motives, but certainly the burning conviction that everybody needed to be born again. So I’d drive my motorized wheelchair all over my high school campus, passing out tracts and telling people they must be born again.

I frequently referred to John 3:1-8 as substantiation for my message. That indeed is the appropriate passage.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” ~~John 3:1-8 (ESV)

Actually, I ignored verses 5, 6 and 8 because I just plain didn’t understand them! Anyway, I wanted to emphasize the apparent command to be born again. I demanded that people repent of sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to escape eternal hell. In my overly simplistic mind, accepting Jesus and living for Him caused someone to be born again.

My misinterpretation of the words “must be” created the problem, both in understanding the concept for myself and in presenting the Gospel to others. By separating those two words from their context, I emphasized human responsibility over the prerogative of the Holy Spirit.

Being born again isn’t a human accomplishment; it’s the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit on those He wills to save. In fact, the words of the apostle John two chapters earlier help clarify that very point.

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. ~~John 1:12-13 (ESV)

Notice verse 13, please.  Although the acts of receiving Him and believing in His name are involved in becoming children of God (verse 12), the spiritual birth results from God’s will, not human will or effort.

Jesus taught Nicodemus that, though being born again is an essential requisite to  entering the kingdom of God, it isn’t something we do ourselves. As John MacArthur has explained numerous times, we played no part in our physical births, so what makes us think that we could possibly have anything to do with our spiritual ones?

Yes, Jesus said we must be born again. Like a child must be a certain height and weight to ride in a car without a booster seat. Like you have to be 18 to register as a voter. You can’t reach those conditions through your own efforts, but those conditions must be met. Although we must be born again, that rebirth happens through the work of the Holy Spirit.

I still have evangelism as a high priority, even if I do it better online than in person. I also still want people to know that they must be born again. Now, however, I understand what it means and how it happens. That understanding makes a huge difference!

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Responding To The World’s Sin On Social Media

Hope in the LordI can’t remember anything about the show I watched on TV that evening 40 years ago except for that few seconds. An old man sat in his rocking chair, excitedly reading his Bible. As I recall, he read a chapter on Israel’s conquest of Canaan. He sat on the edge of his seat gleefully shouting, “Get ’em, Lord!”

It turned my stomach and broke my heart. What a horrible characterization of Christians!

Over the years, I reassured myself that the scene from the TV show merely betrayed Hollywood’s well-known bias against Christianity. That theory definitely has its merit. Even in its early days, the film industry had a certain animosity towards Biblical thought. By the 1980s that animosity was beginning to get less covert. So course the writers of that show would depict a Christian character as a vengeful old man who got his jollies from the destruction of sinners.

Lately, as I scroll through things Christians post on Twitter and Facebook, I find myself wondering if Continue reading

She Thought Speaking Forcefully Would Attract Them To Jesus — In My Dreams!

Soccor Mom 01Dream analysis has no place in Biblical thought. It’s a construct of Freudian psychology, developed by a man who was openly hostile to religion of any type. So please don’t misunderstand my article — I mention last night’s dream only to make a point about what sharing the Gospel.

It was one of my crazy dreams about Boston in which the places bear absolutely no resemblance to the way they are in real life. Nevertheless, John and I cut through a non-existent (in real life) red brick alley to get to one side of Quincy Market to the other so that I could get a cannoli. As we approached the cannoli stand, we Continue reading

Evangelism Isn’t My Gift, But I’m Responsible To Proclaim The Gospel

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To my knowledge, no one has become a Christian as a result of my evangelistic efforts. Furthermore, I’m notoriously shy about face-to-face witnessing. Although I was so bold about the Gospel in high school that I often became obnoxious, college eroded that boldness. Sadly, I never have regained it.

I’ve been thinking about evangelism lately because of a recent sermon our associate pastor preached and a variety of articles I’ve been reading. But the Lord has particularly convicted me about evangelism through Continue reading