Visions from the Vincents

December 16, 2008

The Fruit and the Root

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joshua @ 6:48 pm
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This past week Larry Eisenfeld, M.D., and president of the Jewish federation of lee and Charlotte Counties wrote an article expressing his thoughts on the massacres in Mumbai. A concern for a rabbi and his wife and seven other Jews who were murdered prompted him to voice his concern. This is what he had to say, “At the end of the day, it does not matter how we practice our faith. It does not matter how we view the world, or what our politics are…The Rabbinic sage Hillel said that all the commandments can be summed up in “Love your neighbor as yourself. All the rest is commentary…May we all react to this vicious attack by being kinder to one another. It behooves us to look at our similarities rather than our differences.” Eisenfeld sentiments are actually popular these days. In fact, just yesterday, I read an article from the Associated Baptist Press, which quotes President Bush as saying that he is not so sure that Jesus is the only way to heaven.

Is it biblical though?

This advice may sound really wise and even biblical. Galatians 5:14 says, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In Galatians, Paul spends much of his time demolishing a temptation perhaps all of us face—Turning Christianity into a list of things that we do for God. The way this practically plays out is that we reduce Christianity to a list of values. We want to be good people so we go to church. We don’t want our children to go to jail so we go to church. This reasoning is like marrying a woman because we like her perfume. We don’t marry a woman because of one of her attributes, nor do we wed ourselves to Christ because of fruit for fruits sake. Paul has shown us that in reality, God has freed us to himself and he is our prize. All of the fruits of the Spirit come from the Spirit living inside of us, transforming us into the image of Christ–that is what makes them spiritual fruits. Our justification and freedom comes from Christ alone. This is the true gospel, God is good, and we broke his law and the only way to be made right with him is to turn from your sin and trust that Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, died for your sins upon a cross and that he is your king—not just a king.

It is dangerous to move from the fruit to the root

This is the dangerous gospel preachers preach and that Martin Lloyd Jones speaks of when he said, “They have all been accused of “antinomianism.” I would say to all preachers: If your preaching of salvation has not been misunderstood in that way, then you had better examine your sermons again, and you had better make sure that you really are preaching the salvation that is proclaimed in the New Testament.” Antinomianism is a belief that there is no law. That is the dangerous gospel we try to preach here. Nothing you do can save you. Salvation only comes from trusting in what Christ has done. This is the very issue that Paul is addressing in this last section of Galatians, and the reason Paul says people are not without a law; they are called to follow the “law of Christ” in 6:2. So, we need to understand the command to love one another within the context of the whole message of Galatians and–perhaps even more so–in the grand scope of the Bible’s redemptive history. Spiritual fruit does not exist without the seed of the gospel taking root in the heart of the believer by the power of the Spirit.

What about other faiths that do good things?

This doesn’t mean that we will not see evidences of grace in the lives of others. All good comes down from the Father who is in heaven. But, some of the good is common and some is special. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. That is a common grace. Only those who repent of their sin and turn to the gospel receive salvation. That is Special grace. So, even the good that we see those of other faiths do is from God. The scary thing is that common grace doesn’t save them. It is faith alone in Christ alone that does that.

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September 29, 2008

Evangelism Mythbuster #5

Filed under: baptism,Evangelism — Joshua @ 5:22 pm
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5. The goal of Evangelism is a decision. The bible clearly communicates that the  goal of evangelism is discipleship.

The Great Commission

Matthew 28:18-20 is commonly referred to as the Great Commission (too often it is also the great omission of the church!).  There it says,

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This verse can be used for missions,–taking the gospel across geographic, cultural, or linguistic boundaries– or evangelism–to proclaim the gospel to those with fewer boundaries (both are shortened definitions that should be expanded).  Jesus leaves his disciples in the book of Matthew with these final words, enlisting them to herald the Kingdom that Jesus ushered in with his life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  Many place the emphasis of this verse on baptizing, thinking it some great service to baptize a lot of people.  Don’t get me wrong, I am intentionally baptistic, because I believe in regenerate church membership and find conversion to be an amazing thing to, which baptism points.  I would never take anything away from the significance and meaning of this divine drama.  And of course, we must decide to follow Jesus.  But, what is more important than a decision, or a Baptism, or filling out a membership card, is that one is presently following Christ.  That is the mark and goal of an authentic decision.  Discipleship is the goal of the Great Commission.  This is evident clearly in the English and even more clearly in the Greek. The focus of evangelism rests in ongoing Christian vitality.  So, where their is no fruit, there probably is no root.  Instead, the plant is probably severed from life, life that is only found in real authentic faith in Christ.

Implications

Individually, this means that practically, our focus should be much more intense than looking for a decision.  When we evangelize we should be looking to the whole person.  We need to see in what ways we can develop long lasting relationships in which we can cultivate the seeds we plant.

As a church, it means that you should be building into your corporate lives a mechanism to invest in the lives of those P.W.E.s (post-water experiences).  You should make it clear to those you baptize the faithful church membership is a natural out working of true grace.  To love God is to love his people, and that it is in this atmosphere that Christians are discipled best.  Moreover, one-on-one disicpleship should be encouraged and provided for christians young and old (in his case, especially young).

Evangelism Mythbuster #4

Filed under: Evangelism — Joshua @ 2:13 am
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4. We don’t evangelize because we are fearful.  This is actually both true and untrue. If you are anything like me, you have felt that queasy feeling in the bottom of your stomach that rushes to your head when you want to tell someone of Christ.  We all have been scared of telling the truth about Christ.  I know there are a number of reason we can fear evangelism.  We can fear physical harm like the Christians in much of the New Testament faced.  We can fear being made fun of, or compromising an opportunity to rise up the latter in a job or social circle.  We can fear costing ourselves a relationship with a family member or a friend.  We can fear not knowing enough to talk to someone smarter than us who is a non-christian, or of messing it all up.  All of these are fears of telling the truth.

Where does this fear come from!

But, I think this fear usually finds it’s source in one of two places.

One is not understanding the grace and love of God. God loves for you to speak true words of him.  You don’t have to have deep debates over doctrine to be a faithful evangelist.  You need to know that man has sinned against his good God and that he needs to trust in Jesus Christ, who died for their sins to be saved.  Nor, do you have to have a perfect life.  Whitfield was a horrible example of a husband.  He neglected her to preach and teach.  But, God still used him.

A second reason is that we fear evangelism is that we don’t realize that we don’t evangelize to bring us favor with God.  We evangelize because we have received God’s favor in Christ Jesus. Consider the love a grandparent has for their grandchildren.   We have all seen the way they talk and act concerning their grandchildren.  Some can’t close their wallets because they have so many pictures of their grand kids.  And, they can’t have a conversation with somebody without talking about how advanced their grandchild is. Sometimes, the way that they talk to them when they are around them is kind of embarrassing, but they don’t care.  Why?  Because, they value that child so much.  They have no fear in expressing their affection for that child.  I know this is an imperfect analogy.  But, many of us need to become gripped afresh with the awe inspiring love of our Creator God for us as he displayed in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of a God-Man born as a baby in a stable.  We need to really meditate on the excellencies of the salvation that has been won for us.  Paul Little says that to evangelize effectively, we must first get our hearts happy before God.  Part of this includes, I think, realizing that Evangelism isn’t something we do as a job for God.  Instead, it is  something that comes out of our hearts being happy before him.

Conclusion

So, if you are fearful of evangelizing, it could be because your heart needs to be happy before God.  How can we do this?  Spend time in prayer.  Ask God to reveal to you why you have lost joy in him.  Ask him to show you if there is some sin that is inhibiting your happiness in God and keeping you from evangelism.  Meet together with other members of your church in small groups or one-on-one discipleship to hold you accountable and to help remind you of God’s calling on your life to tell the truth to others.  The main point is to be intentional about your relationship with Christ and others.

September 25, 2008

Mythbuster #2

Filed under: Evangelism,Uncategorized — Joshua @ 1:22 am
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2. Not everyone is called to evangelize. Actually, all Christians are called to Evangelize.  Maybe you have been taught that your job is to invite people to church and the pastor’s job is to invite them to Christ.

What about verses about “evangelists?”

In places in the Bible, we find that some are particularly gifted or called in this area.  In Ephesians 4:11, we see that there is a special gift to the church of an evangelist.  And, in 2 Timothy 4:5, pastors are called to do the work of evangelists.  So, you may think that evangelism is something that only a select few do, and that because it is not your gift, you don’t bother with it.

Consider these verses

The Bible is clear that we are all to “proclaim the gospel.”  In fact, this is the reason that God has called you to himself.  Look at 1 Pet 2:9, “but you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Who is Peter speaking to here?  He is speaking to Christians undergoing persecution.  Notice he doesn’t say, “Some of you have been called to evangelize because you have that gift, or all those of you who have some kind of special Bible training proclaim the excellencies of him who called you.”  He says, we are all called to proclaim the excellencies of God in Christ.

Does evangelism have to take place from a pulpit?

This includes fisherman, teachers, accountants, homemakers, or any other category of person you can concieve of.  God calls all Christians to evangelism.  That proclamation isn’t necessarily from a pulpit either.  In fact, at the time this was written, I would venture to say that is virtually a gaurantee.   This proclamation happens as mothers raise their children, as a plant worker eats lunch with an unbelieving coworker, or as a Doctor offers consolation to someone suffering a terminal illness.

Isn’t this risky?

Are there risks in doing this?  Yes!  And, I don’t want to belittle the ever-growing risks of faithfull evangelism.  Risk itself is not a new developement in the lives of Christians though.  Remember Peter’s audience faced sporadic, but severe persecutions for proclaiming the faith.  All of the Disciples suffered immensly and most were martyred for the faith.  In Acts 4 we find a similar situation.  There, the dispersed Christians flee for their lives while proclaiming the gospel.  The point is that risky evangelism is the only true kind of evangelism.  That is one of the costs of true discipleship.  Another way of saying that is, Christians, this is what you were created and recreated to do.

September 24, 2008

Evangelism Mythbuster #1

Filed under: Evangelism — Joshua @ 1:08 am
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George Whitfield, the famous preacher of the First Great Awakening of the 1700s, is considered by most to be one of the greatest evangelists this world has ever known.  Why?  Probably the same reason this artist has him donning a halo.  Some estimated that Whitfield preached to 80,000 people at one time.  Ben Franklin, a contemporary of Whitfield, heard of Whitfield’s greatness with skepticism.  He was no Christian but wanted to see. He said, “It seemed as if the whole world were growing religious.  He estimated that Whitfield could preach to 30,000 people and have them hear his voice.  As far as I know, Franklin never trusted in Jesus for salvation, but he did become a friend of Whitfield of whom he said, “he is a good man and I love him.”  I don’t know about you, but it is encouraging for me to know that despite the sheer magnitude of Whitfield’s ministry, even he had those whom he did not see come to Christ.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not reveling in the fact that Franklin didn’t come to Christ (as far as I know).  The thought is actually terrifying!  I do feel that I can relate to the fact that even Whitfield had his disappointments that he had to lift up to God.

Defining our terms
What is evangelism though?   Historically, this hasn’t always been so clear, though we don’t have space here to pursue some of the past and present attempts to reinvent the term.  The word evangelism comes from the Greek word  gospel, or “good news.”  So, to evangelize is literally to “proclaim the gospel.”  It is not so hard to see that “good news” is central to being an Evangelist.  According to the Bible, the “good news” climaxes in Jesus Christ, who claimed in John 14:6 to be, “the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through him.”  To be honest, I am no George Whitfield, and teaching on the topic of evangelism is intimidating, because I believe all of us feel that we fall short of being faithful in this area, including me.  It is for this reason that I think it is critical that we consider the question: Who is going to tell the truth (to follow Will Metzger’s helpful work)?

Myth Busters

I think that many of us are prevented from evangelism because of certain myths that we buy into concerning this God-given, glorious, attribute.  That’s right attribute!  I think that it is so natural to being a Christian that is actually a property of the new birth given to all true believers.  We reflect God’s image of speaking to his greatness.  I plan on following the method of a show Cari and I love to watch, myth-busters.  On this show, two scientists test commonly held myths to see if they are actually true.  For instance, they had an episode on sharks where they dealt with the myth of sharks seeking out human prey.  So, they took their friend Harry out into shark infested waters and dropped him in and started a timer to see if the sharks would eat him.  I am just kidding.  You’ll be happy to know that Sharks don’t hunt humans.  Sometimes they simply mistake humans for wounded animals.  I let you trust that one.  I want to topically apply some common beliefs I believe Satan uses to stifle Evangelism and bust them with what the Bible actually says concerning these myths. I believe that biblical evangelism begins with God and flows with joy out of the heart of Christians.  So, this will be the first myth of the series of evangelism myth busters.

1. Evangelism begins with us.  In reality, Evangelism begins with God!
2 Cor 5:18-20 tells us that it is God that is reconciling men to himself.   God is the great reconciler.  In John 10, we are told that Christ is looking for his lost sheep and that he will retrieve all of them.  And remember, it is God who sent his Son, the living Word that he might save us.  God is the first mover and great Evangelist.  He is the substance of the gospel that we trust in and the one acting on our behalf.  And, he has given his Spirit to us to point both us and others to Christ.  Notice, when the Spirit is poured out in Acts, they immediately speak the gospel of what God has done, this is the point of the Spirit–to point to Christ.  This is the reason we have been given the Spirit.  So, God is reconciling men to himself.  Therefore, when we evangelize, we aren’t actually doing anything new or alone.  God has been working on the salvation of all who believe since before the world began in setting aside his Son, Christ, to die for our sins.  More than that, he is still working, reconciling men to himself.  And, Christians are called to join him in this grand venture in which he has been involved since before time began.  I trust that he will succeed.  And, my life finds its greatness significance when I take part in something that is infinitely greater than myself, and nothing exceeds the the greatness of proclaiming the goodness of a great God and thus taking part in the ushering in of his kingdom!

March 5, 2008

What should the Church do?

How socially active should the church be? What kind of thoughts should Christians consider as they think through living in the world?–You don’t have to think about it, I have some friends who have already done it for you.  Actually, this blog should be more of a help than an end to the conversation. Check it out.

Moore on the Theology of the Great Commission

Filed under: Evangelism — Joshua @ 4:04 am
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No pun intended. Check out more on the Great commission in Moore’s recent posts on the multi-part series .

March 3, 2008

Theology Bleeds

Filed under: Evangelism — Joshua @ 4:41 pm
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Read this helpful article, Theology Bleeds: The Great Commission, by Russ Moore on the war nature of evangelism.

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