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 #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.

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