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Thursday, December 3rd 2009

2:47 PM

“Evangelism is a Scary Word!”

By Pastor Bruce Sikes

 

A church staff minister confided to me his frustration in attempting to form an Evangelism Team within his church. The senior ministers rebuffed him saying, “Evangelism is a scary word!”. One suggested, “Why not call it ‘Joy Team’ instead?” They then proceeded to further discourage him with every conceivable reason it wouldn’t work. Eventually the team was formed, but as you can imagine, without much emphasis or support from the senior church leadership.

You can also imagine that at such a church, other “scary” words are not mentioned as well. Words like sin, salvation, judgment, the devil, and of course, hell. Instead, a kinder, gentler religious terminology is substituted. One in which no one is frightened, none are judged and certainly no one is offended.

In the biblical interpretations of this nicer religion, Sins become our “mistakes” and Judgment is a word not to be spoken aloud. God alone is the Judge and so judgment is not for mere mortals to consider. Besides, God loves us so we have nothing to worry about! The Devil has become, "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named." A symbol of the personification of evil residing in an unseen spiritual realm. Of course, God is more powerful, so no real need to mention him anyway. Hell, well, it was made for the devil and his fallen angels, so unless you are a really, really, really bad person, like a Nazi or a child molester, you will be ok. Salvation becomes our “safe-alternative” to Hell, whereby we simply acknowledge our shortcomings so that we may achieve a “right relationship” with God. God then becomes our “friend“.

The Evangelism objective, if any, of a modern “politically correct” church is to increase the numbers of church attendees by gently guiding people into a “healthy” relationship with God through His earthly representatives ie; the church organization and it’s ministers. This must all be accomplished without making anyone feel the least bit guilty or uncomfortable. “Evangelism Light” - less filling, same great taste! Like many of the “light” beverages we drink, the ingredient label usually contains the words; “No Nutritional Value”. A sweet tasting substitute designed to deceive you into thinking it was the real thing.

It reminds me of the great quote from Martin Luther, “For wherever God builds a church, there the Devil would also build a chapel.”

Today, there are too many chapels passing themselves off as churches. They are being built on the shifting sands of a secular society, sliding to and fro according to the whims of political correctness. The foundations of evangelism have been watered down to suit the sensibilities of modern man. The sword of the spirit, the word of God, has been replaced in favor of a feather. Why strike the soul, spirit and heart, when tickling the ear gains more friends?

Churches have occasionally been called, “Hospitals for the sick.” and while that may be an appropriate analogy at times, it is only true if people are being cured! Having said that, let me ask you, “If you were dying of a disease would you want someone to give you a substitute cure, that is a placebo, a sugar pill which looks like the real thing and tastes sweet like candy but has no power to save you?”

I would rather think that you would seek the genuine cure regardless of how uncomfortable it may make you. Unless, of course you were not told how serious your condition is, how close to death you are. Perhaps, instead someone gave you a small self-adhesive bandage and told to come back next week - when what you really needed was a heart transplant.

"They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14)

Sin is a horribly destructive disease. It is fatal. Salvation comes not from trying to avoid sin, evil, satan, hell and judgment, but from confronting and overcoming them through the power of Christ.

Not by positive thinking, not by being nice to your neighbor and trying your best to live a good life. All good things, but there are plenty of Buddhists, agnostics, atheists and various other non-Christians who do the same. If the evangelistic goal of the church is to enable people to avoid the gates of hell by encouraging them to live a polite peaceful life, then Christ is not needed. Now, does any church state that as it’s objectives? Of course not. Are there churches who practice this pseudo peaceful method of salvation?, of course there are…too many. Outwardly the body seems healthy, functioning, fellowshipping and friendly. Inside however, the soul is not being given the right medicine to cure it’s fatal disease - sin. The pastors of these churches have become pill pushers. Religious pills are being dispensed from the pulpits consisting of psychological aspirins for the pain and philosophical antidepressants to help cope with mood swings. The church becomes a hospice instead of a hospital. There are patients dying who think they are being healed.

Yet, imagine for a moment that one of those who was dying, received a miraculously cure! And imagine as well, that not only along with receiving the cure, the person was given the knowledge of how to cure the disease. Sadly, however, they didn’t bother sharing the cure with anyone. How pitiful that would be! What a shame! What a loss to humanity…something people need so badly! Why wouldn’t they share the remarkable cure? Perhaps the person just doesn’t want to try and tell people what to do. They don’t want to appear to be a know-it-all, or, “better“ than others. Perhaps they see that someone is trying another way to get the cure and so they rationalize, “Maybe that will work for them, everyone’s different”, “Who am I to push my beliefs on them?” “Surely someone else is taking care of it.” Perhaps it’s simply because they are now cured and the immediate prospect of their own death is in the past, the reality of what they faced is no longer urgent to them right now.

Whatever the reason, that cured person or that church, needs to revisit their fatal illness and the miraculous cure which gave them life. There are times when someone dies and donates an organ to a dying person so they may receive it and live out the rest of their earthly lives. Jesus died and donated all He had in a sacrifice of love so we may live beyond our earthy lives into eternity. We must return to our first love, to the proclamation of the Gospel.

From the malaise of sick religion God has called forth a Remnant of healed people. He as called them to promote His life giving cure, to distribute it in our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, businesses, homes and even in our own “hospitals” as needed. Accepting substitutes, compromising on treatments or ignoring patients can not be tolerated when lives are at stake. We cannot afford to wait for a church, a preacher, or an “evangelist” to distribute the cure. We have the cure and the ability to share it.

This is both the duty and challenge required of those God has called forth as His Remnant. The double edged sword of proclamation given to the Remnant cuts two ways, both within and without the church. We cannot merely aim inwardly and wait for those negligent brothers, sisters and clergy to catch evangelistic zeal and boldly proclaim the Gospel to the lost. We must stand in the gap on behalf of the reluctant church and do the work of an evangelist in spite of any hindrance or opposition.

We must take up the same charge as given to the disciple Timothy by the apostle Paul:

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

“Do the work of an Evangelist!“ For the time will, and has, come when sound doctrine is put away and people have turned aside to hear what they want to hear, or for that matter, preach what they want to preach. These same false teachers continue to sing Jesus saves! Jesus saves! in their churches, but saved from what?

Let’s remind ourselves of what the Bible says about sin, judgment, satan, hell and salvation.

Sin is not merely a “mistake”. The Bible says, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you.” (Genesis 4:7). And Jesus in speaking to the people said, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." (John 8:24). Sin is deadly. Sin kills. Sin is Ugly. Sugar coating Sin and changing the label only makes it harder to detect. Sin must be called what it is - Sin. The Bible tells us, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” (1 Corinthians 15:56). Paul states, “I would not have known what sin was except through the law.” (Romans 7:7). God’s law is His word, the Bible. Without knowing, understanding, and acknowledging the serious nature of sin, how and why would a person repent? It is a difficult but a necessary part of the evangelistic message. We must use and let the convicting power of God’s living word reveal to the lost person his or her sin. Jesus was crucified and died for their sins and ours. The Apostle Peter proclaimed, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 ) 

Judgment cannot be separated from the consequences of sin and the work of Christ. In the verses of 2nd Timothy 4:1 previously mentioned above, Christ Himself, “will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom.” In 2nd Corinthians 5:10, it tells us “…we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” And to further illustrate the importance of preaching the certainty of Judgment both within and without the church, and the compelling need to evangelize, 1st Peter 4:17 states, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”. There is no avoiding judgment. That is why sharing the gospel message must be at the forefront of our daily walk of faith.

The Devil, the Evil One, Satan cannot be separated from the saving work of Christ. John writes in his gospel, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.” (1 John 3:8 ) . This makes teachings on the nature of the devil and his work an important topic for discussion and not one to be avoided. Especially since John also writes, “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19) Peter also warns us, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 ).  And Paul writes that, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14) These and many other scriptures are vital information in our efforts to evangelize the lost and in their struggle to accept the gospel message. They are in the Bible to help us, not to make us afraid.

Hell cannot be avoided, ignored or minimized as is often the case today. It is the end result of sin, satan, and judgment. It is the destiny of every person without Christ. It is what we are saved from… The Bible describes it as a place of “suffering, punishment and eternal fire” (Jude 1:7), a lake of “burning fire” and “burning sulfur” (Revelation 20). Jesus Himself calls it a place of “torment” (Luke 16), and a “fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:49-51). The Lord Jesus as gentle and loving as He was, and is, did not water down the reality of Hell and the consequences of sin and judgment. In fact, Jesus uses a parable of sheep and goats to describe how all of this comes together under Him. In these excerpts from Matthew 25, Jesus says, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory,...He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left...Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world'...Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels'....Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." Christ gave His life for this message. He desires that no one should go to hell, but that all would be saved. The ugly truth is that hell is real and it is the ultimate destination for those who reject the gospel of Christ.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12).

Jesus says, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9)


“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16)


“That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

If all of these statements about Jesus are true, then they must have some, to say the least, profound implications for us in what we believe. And if we truly believe these things, then it must be shown in how we live our daily lives. What‘s more, it should significantly and deeply affect our relationships with others. If we really believe what the scriptures say, “Salvation is found in no one else“, then we have in our hands, in our hearts, in our minds and on our lips the power of eternal life and the salvation from eternal damnation.

“And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” (Romans 13:11)

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" (Romans 10:14-15)

You have been sent. Do the work of an Evangelist…

Pray, grab a Bible and open your mouth. If you need help, there are resources on Evangelism and Witnessing on the “Links and Resources” page of the VoiceOfTheRemnant.org web site.

For Christ and His Remnant, 

Pastor Bruce 

Copyright VoiceOfTheRemnant.org © 2009

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